Anointing of the Sick
The Anointing of the Sick—formerly known as ‘last rites’—is no longer considered a sacrament only for those at the point of death. Instead, this healing sacrament is for all those who are facing major surgery, chronic illness, the weakness that comes with age, or any ailment for which they seek God’s grace and blessing. The Sacrament gives strength and support and can be administered to anyone struggling with an illness.
A communal celebration of the sacrament is celebrated twice yearly at St John, once during Advent and again during Lent. Or, you may call the parish office to schedule an appointment. Whenever possible, the sacrament should not be delayed until the person is in imminent danger of death.
Who may Receive?
In the Catholic Church, Extreme Unction or the Last Rites is the anointing at the time of death. Since the Second Vatican Council, this sacrament is now called the Anointing of the Sick and has been broadened to offer healing and comfort in times of illness that may not lead to immediate death. Speaking about a wider implementation of this sacrament, Pope Paul VI advocated for “a wider availability of the sacrament and to extend it—within reasonable limits—even beyond cases of mortal illness."
Unlike the traditional understanding of the Last Rites, the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is, ideally, to be administered in a communal celebration.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that when the sick are anointed they should be "assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention" (1516). "Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration…It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist" (CCC 1517).
Does it offer a physical or a spiritual healing?
The healing that occurs in this sacrament of anointing is not necessarily physical healing. While we believe that physical healing can occur through the great power of God, the grace that is infused through this special sacrament is the reminder of the eternal presence of God in our human suffering.
When the priest blesses the oil of anointing, he asks God to "send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil. Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction" (Pastoral Care of the Sick, #123).
"The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament" (CCC 1531).
What is Viaticum?
Viaticum is the last sacrament of the Christian life, and is celebrated when death is near. In this case, the sacrament of the sick encompasses a broader ceremony which includes Viaticum (last Communion—food for the homeward journey) and a blessing.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about the Anointing of the Sick:
CCC 1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
– the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life.
“He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two…They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:7, 13)”