The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

‘Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyter of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven’

Anointing of the Sick is the second sacrament of healing. In this sacrament a priest anoints the sick with oil blessed specifically for that purpose.

 

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age. The proper time for receiving this holy anointing has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death…

“The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger by reason of illness or old age”

A new illness or a worsening of health enables a person to receive the sacrament a further time.

 

The celebration of 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.

 

When, in the Western Church, the sacrament was conferred only on those in immediate danger of death, it came to be known as “Extreme Unction”, i.e. “Final Anointing”, administered as one of the Last Rites. The other Last Rites are Confession (if the dying person is physically unable to confess, at least absolution, conditional on the existence of contrition, is given), and the Eucharist, which when administered to the dying is known as “Viaticum“, a word whose original meaning in Latin was “provision for a journey”.

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 suffering 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.