What is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?
It is through this sacrament that the healing ministry of Jesus Christ is continued by the action of the Church. During his ministry, nobody went away from Jesus without experiencing some kind of healing, whether of body, mind, or spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, this work is continued by the Church today, allowing people to experience the healing touch and presence of the Lord Jesus.
When should someone receive the Anointing of the Sick?
Persons with the disease of alcoholism or persons suffering from other addictions can be anointed. So can those who suffer from various mental disorders. The anxiety before exploratory surgery to determine if cancer is present is a situation in which Christ's power can be invoked in the sacrament.
Is this the same as "the last rites"?
In the past, Anointing was looked upon primarily as being for the dying and was called "Extreme Unction". In the renewal of theology since the Second Vatican Council, there has been a rediscovery of the ancient roots of this sacrament as being for the sick rather than the dying. Properly speaking therefore, the last rite is not the Anointing of the Sick but Viaticum, the last Holy Communion of a person at the point of death.
How is the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick celebrated?
There are now three rites provided for Anointing.
The first is for anointing celebrated outside of the Mass. This can be in the home, in the church, or in the hospital. Members of the sick person's family participate in the ceremony as do pastoral care ministers and the priest. This is intended to be the normal way the sacrament is celebrated.
The second is an anointing during Mass. This can be of one person or many persons.
Finally, there is a shortened rite, for emergencies only, which is unusually used in the home or hospital if the person is in immediate danger of death. This is intended to be an exceptional case.
What effects can be expected?
The healing ministry of the Church follows that of Jesus and is concerned with the healing of the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. The goal of the sacrament is this total healing. Sometimes a person is cured of a bodily illness. Sometimes there is psychological or spiritual healing. What is certain is that healing is taking place that can strengthen a sick person and enable them to bear their illness. Relationships, both with God and other people can also be healed through this sacrament.
Who should be anointed?
Any person whose health is seriously impaired by illness or old age. A sick child should be anointed if they are old enough to derive a benefit from the sacrament.
When should someone be anointed?
As soon as it is clear that their health is seriously impaired due to sickness or old age, and if they suddenly enter a more acute stage of their illness. They may be anointed before surgery if this results because of serious illness. If at all possible, the sacrament should not be delayed until the person is at the point of death.
What is the structure of an anointing service?
Greeting, invitation to prayer, reading of The Word of God, laying on of hands, prayer over the oil, anointing, prayer, and blessing. Communion or Viaticum may follow the anointing.
Anointing in a Home or Hospital
- The rite begins with the Sign of the Cross with blessed water which reminds us of our baptismal promise to die with Christ so that we might rise to new life with him.
- The readings from Scripture are adapted to the condition of the sick person. The priest prays and assures the sick person of the prayers of the parish and invites the sick person to pray for the needs of his or her fellow parishioners.
- The priest imposes hands on the head of the one to be anointed, prays over the oil and anoints the forehead and hands of the sick person.
- The priest prays for the sick person and invites all present to pray The Lord's Prayer.
- Holy Communion may be received at this time.
- The priest then blesses the sick person and all present.