Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
Initially, Anointing was given to those who were sick and suffering. Sickness was closely related to sinfulness and healing was a sign of God’s victory over the illness producing demonic powers. Sacramentaries and ritual books note oil of the sick was to be used for physical ailments and ailments of the mind, as well. In the ancient world, oil was the primary way medicine was administered, either through anointing or consuming the medicine dissolved in oil. As a result, oil was a natural medium for this sacrament.
As Church structure formalized, the Church moved from charismatic expressions of the Gospel and God’s grace to more defined norms and procedures. Healing as an ecclesial activity shifted to an officially recognized sacrament performed by ordained ministers. Through time, although the Church upheld the tradition the sacrament was for both healing of the sick and strengthening the dying, pastoral practice emphasized the value of the sacrament for the dying. The sacrament, Extreme Unction, became a last anointing which sealed the person as a member of the Body of Christ. Calling for the priest was a sign the end was near.
The Second Vatican Council Fathers encouraged the reform of the rites associated with the sick and dying. Sacrosanctum Concilium changed the term to be used to Anointing of the Sick from Extreme Unction, and emphasized the sacrament is not only for those at the point of death. While not dismissing the possibility of the sacrament for an individual at the end of his/her life, the Council embraced the ancient tradition; the sacrament was for the sick, when a member of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age. Canon 1004 of the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 states, “The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, after having reached the age of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.”
Many wait too long to enjoy the full benefits of the sacrament. Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is not a sacrament for the time of death. It offers a special grace of healing and comfort to the Christian who is suffering the infirmities of serious illness or old age, and the forgiving of the person’s sins. A Christian may receive Anointing of the Sick with each serious illness and in the event a condition worsens.
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is available the first Saturday of each month after the 8:00 AM Mass. If you are unable to attend, you may contact the office at
239-261-4883 to arrange for the Anointing of the Sick.
Adapted: John C. Kasza, Understanding Sacramental Healing: Anointing and Viaticum, Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2007.
Catechism of the Catholic Church