Anointing of the Sick

Illness, mortal or otherwise, is part of human experience. It can lead people to extreme negative experiences, anguish, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick confers grace on the Christian experiencing pain and suffering resultant from the condition of grave illness or old age.

The apostolic Church used to have its own rite for the sick. The words of St. James attest to it: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] 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” (James 5:14-15).

It is to be noted that the Sacrament of Anointing is administered not only as a preparation for imminent death but also as a solace to illness. It may or may not heal the sick person; it would help the sick to endure pain and suffering. It will lead the suffering person to understand with St Paul that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church (Col. 1:24).

The person who received the anointing once and recovered his/her health, s/he can receive this sacrament again on another occasion of illness. The same sacrament could be repeated during the same illness if necessary. It is appropriate to receive the Anointing of the Sick prior to a serious operation. It is advisable that the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of reconciliation and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. Thus the Eucharist should become the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the “viaticum” for “passing over” to eternal life (CCC 1517).

What does the Anointing of the Sick offer to a sick person? Many graces are made available:
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 (CCC 1532).

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