Jesus Christ instituted holy anointing during his earthly ministry. We see it alluded to in the Gospel of Mark, “So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mark 6:12-13).” It is directly found in the book of James, where the apostle and brother of our Lord recommends it: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders 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).”
This sacrament gives the recipient special graces. It unites the sick person to the passion of Christ. It strengthens him and gives him the peace and courage to endure the sufferings of the illness or old age. If the person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of penance, his sins are also forgiven. It can restore a persons health and the salvation of his soul. And it is the preparation for the passing over to eternal life.
The “Anointing of the Sick” has had its name changed several times and is probably the least understood of the seven sacraments of the Church. Some of the names have been Extreme Unction (which means “last anointing”), Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites. Through the centuries, this sacrament began to be given more and more to people who were at the point of death and started to receive the name “Extreme Unction” (CCC #1512).
Even since Vatican II, this sacrament is still misunderstood. Many people still think that this sacrament is only for those persons on their deathbed, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says; “The Anointing of the Sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived…If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced (CCC#1214-1515).”
The purpose for this sacrament is the Church’s way of being present to a sick member, expressing the concern of the community and praying for this particular Christian’s recovery. Because he has been a faithful member of the community, the Church now comes to him with words of consolation, healing, and hope, just as the Lord Jesus did during his earthly life and ministry. Jesus not only cured physical ills but also forgave men of their sins (CCC 1503). In the Anointing of the Sick, this connection between physical and spiritual illness is clearly made: “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 (CCC 1513).”
Olive oil is the material that is used for this sacrament and must be blessed for this purpose by a bishop or by those whom the law equates with diocesan bishops. The proper minister of the “Anointing of the Sick” is a priest.
Viaticum, the Last Sacrament of the Christian:
“In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day [Jn. 6:54].’ The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father” (CCC #1524).
Until next time, God bless