Many people confuse this Sacrament with something else: the Rite of Viaticum – when Holy Communion is brought to a dying person, and special prayers are said in order to accompany the dying person “on the Way.” (Many people still wrongly refer to the Sacrament of the Sick as “Last Rites,” and still wait too long before gathering the family and calling the priest for Viaticum.)
This special source of support and comfort was becoming more a sacrament of the dying. It was requested infrequently, and even then in the final moments before death, often when the baptized Christian was already unconscious and therefore unable to receive the Sacrament. The Community with whom they shared life and liturgy was no longer present to them, nor praying with and for them in the celebration of this Sacrament.
Vatican II rightly restored this Sacrament to the sick who were not in immediate danger of death, and suggested that Anointing of the Sick was a more appropriate name than “Extreme Unction,” or “Last Rites.” In 1972 the revised Rite was named (officially) the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and was extended to include all ministry to the sick. The new Rite for this Sacrament was approved in 1983. Once again the Sacrament draws us in as family, friends, and community who minister to and actively support these persons at this time of weakness or separation. The Rite intends that all of us take an active role, for the mission of the Church is Jesus’ healing, and together we are His Body, the Church. Christ continues His ministry of healing through this Sacrament of the Sick.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ.”
Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.
The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:
This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.
The Code of Canon Law States:
Can. 998 The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends to the suffering and glorified Lord the faithful who are dangerously ill so that he may support and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books.
Can. 1004 §1 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 of death by reason of illness or old age.
§2 This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes seriously ill or if, in the same illness, the danger becomes more serious.
Please contact the parish office if you or someone you know needs or requests this sacrament
This Sacrament really contains You, O my God, You whom the angels adore, in whose presence the spirits and mighty powers tremble. Oh! if we could only see You clearly as they do, with what reverence would we approach this sacrament, with what humility would we receive You.
Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.