Anointing of the Sick
“Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord…” (James 5:14).
In the church’s sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Jesus himself touches the sick person to heal him/her from sin and physical illness. He cured illness and exorcised demons to signify the coming of the Kingdom of God. In the sacrament Jesus heals the physical body and so teaches us that, through his own death on the cross and resurrection, he forgives our sins and saves us from eternal death.
The Anointing of the Sick is not “the last rites.” In the past, one could receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick only once in one’s life. Therefore, it was usually put off until one was near death and called, in Latin, Extreme Unction (The Last Anointing); and so it came to be called, popularly, “the last rites.” Since the Second Vatican Council put forth a renewed understanding of the sacrament and the graces it communicates, it is no longer the case that one can only receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick once, that one must wait until one is near death.
One should not wait until one is dying to receive the Anointing of the Sick. The onset or worsening of a serious illness, before major surgery, or worsening health associated with continued aging are sufficient circumstances to warrant calling for the priest. In any case, the recipient of the sacraments must be sufficiently conscious so as personally to desire and request the sacraments. In all celebrations of these sacraments (Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Viaticum) insofar as it is possible, one’s family and friends should be gathered together to accompany the sick or dying person in prayer.
The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick expresses Jesus’ and the church’s solidarity with the sick person in his/her suffering. While physical healing of illness is a hoped-for effect, the primary effect of the sacrament is spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.
For more information about the Anointing of the Sick, its history, character, and the grace that flows from the sacrament, see the PDF in the “Important Resources” box on the right of the page.
To request a priest for the Anointing of the Sick, call 303.935.3900.
For an After Hours Sacramental Emergency, call 303.980.3787.