Some good friends are currently going through a tough time with their dad who is elderly and is not well. Although he is a life long Catholic, they are very reluctant to ask his priest to come and administer the anointing of the sick. Like many, they equate this important sacrament with the last rites.
In the Catholic faith we are gifted with 7 sacraments:
Anointing of the Sick
Some of the sacraments, like baptism and confirmation, we receive once in our lifetime. Some, like holy orders or marriage, we may never receive. And some we receive regularly like the eucharist and reconciliation. Then there is the anointing of the sick - probably the most misunderstood of the seven sacraments.
A Source of Spiritual Strength
"The anointing of the sick conveys several graces and imparts gifts of strengthening in the Holy Spirit against anxiety, discouragement, and temptation, and conveys peace and fortitude." (CCC 1520).
The Catechism is clear that “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death." (CCC 1514)
This sacrament may be received prior to serious surgery, or when one is very ill, or has suffered a serious accident. It not only addresses physical ailments but also extends to the spiritual and emotional dimensions of the person, offering comfort and peace in the midst of suffering.
When a priest is called to administer the anointing of the sick, he will anoint the sick person on the forehead, saying, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He will then anoint the sick person on the hands, saying, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.”
A person can receive this sacrament more than once during their lifetime.
This sacrament recognizes our frailty and assures us that even in our weakest or declining moments, God is right there to strengthen us. He will not leave us on our own.
Fr. Don Miller, OFM
James Campbell, religious educator and author, describes the sacrament as one that "helps unite those who are suffering with Jesus' saving and healing power." Fr. Don Miller, OFM, reminds us that the sacrament is one of the ways Jesus assists us in life and offers his divine help...he offers his courage, strength, and healing—including spiritual healing in the forgiveness of sins."
Last Rites: Preparing the Soul for Eternal Life
When a Catholic is at the point of death he or she can and should receive the "Last Rites". While the Anointing of the Sick is part of the Last Rites, the term generally refers to the combination of three sacraments: Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and the reception of the Holy Eucharist (Viaticum). This prepares the person to travel with the Lord on the final part of their time here on earth.
Remember that as we navigate this journey called life, there will be moments when we may find ourselves facing the challenges of illness or the inevitable reality of our mortality. In these moments, the Church offers us the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick—a powerful and comforting expression of God's mercy and healing.
If you or a loved one is seriously ill, is about to undergo surgery or is elderly and dealing with health related issues consider reaching out to your parish priest about receiving the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.