Anointing of the Sick is one of the Seven Sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church, as having been instituted by Jesus Christ. This anointing is for any person who is seriously sick; very old; preparing for a surgical operation; involved in a serious accident and has sustained serious injuries; or even a child who has attained the ‘Age of Reason’ and is seriously sick. Persons, who may be in situations that threaten their lives, and thus said to be in danger of death, are the usual recipients of this Sacrament, so that healing may be given to their souls and possibly their bodies, if God so wishes. As indicated in the definition of the Sacrament, such persons should be brought to the attention of the Priest, not a lay person, not even a Deacon, because the Deacon does not have the faculty nor is he a Minister of the Sacrament. This is not the same as ‘Communion of the Sick”, that a Deacon or any Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist can give. “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the Presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.
If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15) Equally, a particular prayer is said over the sick person, by the Priest: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up” It can be seen from the prayer that the Sacrament is primarily intended for the healing of the recipient, it is clearly not a ‘send-forth’ sacrament for the sick person receiving it. It is not a Sacrament of death, it is not for one about to die; rather, it is for one whose health is seriously threatened, so that God may heal him. Finally, as in the definition, the sick person is anointed with a Holy Oil. This is not just any oil, but ‘Oil of the Sick’, one of the Three Holy Oils of the Catholic Church, namely, Oil of Catechumens, Oil of Chrism and Oil of the Sick, that have been either consecrated or blessed by the Bishop, at the Chrism Mass on Holy (or Maundy) Thursday. It is not just any “Anointing Oil”, which is now the popular thing among modern day Christians.
It should be noted that the oil does not have magical power that heals, rather it is God Himself who heals, having been prayed to in the course of the anointing. In brief, Anointing of the Sick is the Sacrament in which the Church prays for a sick person, who is also anointed with Oil of the Sick, that God may grant him/her healing. It is however expedient that as the Medical Doctor is called, and has to give oxygen or other medicines to one who is critically ill, that the body may heal, so it is expedient to call a Priest to anoint (or give spiritual oxygen and medicines) to the soul of the sick person. It is usually advantageous to give spiritual medicine to one who is sick.
What Does Anointing of The Sick Do For Us?
1. It forgives us our sins and gives us increase in Divine Life. Thus if one dies after receiving the Sacrament, it is believed that the soul is saved.
2. It gives us courage to bear our sufferings and to trust in God.
3. It helps us resist temptations of the devil and worries about death.
4. It may bring a return to physical health.
5. It prepares us for heaven. Extreme Unction Extreme Unction used to be the original name by which this Sacrament was known. People misconstrued the meaning of the name, and would therefore wait till a sick person was about to die before calling a Priest. This thus threw fear into persons who are sick and their relations, whenever they go to invite the Priest. They would believe ‘It is finished’. As said earlier, it is not a sacrament of death, it is not a sacrament of ‘send forth’. It is for someone who is seriously sick, that the family is praying for, to receive healing. “This Sacrament is called Extreme Unction because it is the last anointing of the Christian, several other anointing, as in Baptism and Confirmation, having already preceded it.” (Student’s Catholic Doctrine – Rev. Charles Hart, 1958 Ed) In fact, the Sacrament can be received as many times as it is required. If one that has received it got healed, he/she stands the chance of receiving another time if another or same sickness occurs.
The Three Last Sacraments
In the celebration the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, it can be done either inside or outside of Mass. The person or persons preparing for anointing would go to Confession, thereby receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation; become anointed with the Oil of the Sick; and then receive the Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist). These three together are therefore classified as the Three Last Sacraments. The Anointing of the Sick is one of the Five Sacraments of the Living, which must therefore be received in the State of Grace. Hence it is important for its recipient to first do confession and be reconciled with God. Because the Sacrament increases Sanctifying Grace, grant forgiveness of Venial Sins and sometimes, Mortal Sins, the Church Fathers regard it as the ‘completion of the Sacrament of Reconciliation’.
The Viaticum is the Holy Communion given to the sick person. Just as a person preparing for a journey, or even a pilgrimage, prepares foods and drinks to take along and eat to give him/ her strength in the course of the journey, so is a sick person given the Holy Communion, as spiritual food for the soul of the sick or dying person, to give strength in the course of the journey home, should he/she die. Viaticum is given to the person who is still able to consume the Communion. It is never given to one who is unconscious or in a coma.
Through the sacrament of anointing, Christ strengthens the faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means of support. Jesus showed great concern for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the sick and commanded his followers to do the same, Mt 9:35 – 10:8; Mk 6:13. The celebration of this sacrament is an opportunity for the deepening of the faith of the community who are able to witness the faith and devotion of those being anointed. It would be recalled that Satan is always looking for opportunities to tempt and derail man from attaining salvation. This is why he seizes the opportunity of one being at the point of death, to tempt, and torture a dying person. Receiving the Anointing helps one to courageously shun Satan. Points to Ruminate On 1. Why can a premature baby not qualify to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick? 2. What are other possibilities that may make a sick person receive the Sacrament again?