Sacrament of the Sick
Many years ago this sacrament was called Extreme Unction and was conferred almost exclusively on those who were at the point of death. The Second Vatican Council wanted to remedy this situation. Today the use of this sacrament is broader. A person receiving the anointing should be seriously ill, but not necessarily in danger of death. The Council placed the sacrament once again in the context of mutual prayer and concern.
More has changed than the sacrament’s name.
- This sacrament is a community celebration. The care and concern of the community is a sign to the sick person of the Lord’s own concern for our bodily and spiritual welfare. We are to be a Church of healing and reconciliation. The celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a ritual moment which makes visible and present to the sick and the whole community an image of who we are as Church, that is, a community of mutual healing and support.
- Sickness involves more than bodily illness. The Anointing of the Sick is a different kind of healing. It offers grace that touches body, soul, and spirit. Up until recent years, we thought of “sickness” exclusively in times of bodily illness. Now we are more aware of the wholistic nature of health.
- Anointing heals us through faith. Through the Anointing of the Sick, the person is strengthened and provided with the strongest means of support. The sacrament gives the grace of the Holy Spirit to those who are sick. Thus the whole person is helped, sustained by trust in God. The principal effect of the sacrament is to give comfort, peace, and courage for facing serious illness or the frailty of old age.
We invite anyone
-who is seriously ill, with prolonged or chronic illness or disease (heart, cancer, respiratory ailments, diabetes, etc.);
-with the disease of alcoholism or those suffering from other addictions;
-who suffers from mental illness and disorders;
-facing exploratory surgery with its uncertainty and anxiety;
-experiencing aging with its limitations, its fears and isolation.
We can receive this Sacrament of the Sick throughout our lives when we are in need of the Lord’s healing and strength. The sacrament is not meant for one with a slight illness, a headache, or cold, for example. The community’s role is to pray along with those who need the healing power of the Lord and the Church. This sacrament reminds us of the frailty of human life and the care and support we can give to one another as part of a praying community.