I’m republishing this Pastor’s Bulletin to emphasize the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, which is often the last opportunity to receive sacramental grace, have our sins forgiven, and be reconciled to God.
From the Pastor’s Archive: December 31, 2017
Anointing of the Sick
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is one of the most misunderstood sacraments. It is often called Extreme Unction, which literally means “last anointing.” If baptism is the first anointing, then the anointing of the sick is the last anointing. It is also confused with the Last Rites, although it is really only one part of the last rites.
Anointing of the Sick is for anyone who begins to be in danger of death from illness, injury, or old age. So, for example, if you are diagnosed with cancer you can be anointed as soon as you are diagnosed. You don’t have to wait until you are in grave danger of dying. In the sacrament the priest will pray over the sick or injured person, lays hands on them (usually on their head), and anoints the forehead and hands with the Oil of the Sick, which is one of the Holy Oils blessed by the bishop during Holy Week every year and distributed to all of the parishes. Only a priest or bishop can give the sacrament of anointing.
In the sacrament we pray for 2 things. First, and most importantly, is spiritual healing and strength. Injury and illness can be a very dangerous time spiritually, especially as we approach death, and we need extra help from God during those times. Through the anointing our venial sins are forgiven, our faith and hope are increased, and we are given sanctifying grace. Some of the graces we might pray for through the sacrament are comfort and consolation, perseverance, courage, and the knowledge of God’s presence with us. Second, we also pray for physical healing, either through the skills of doctors and nurses, or miraculously. However, we also know that this is not always given, so we pray as Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.” Even Christ prayed to be spared the suffering of the Cross, but He also accepted the will of God; we should follow His example.
The Sacrament of Anointing, like all of the sacraments, gets it’s power from the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. In our suffering we may be tempted to lose hope, to lose faith in God, or to give up, but in the Sacrament Christ gives us His strength. He reminds us of His promise to His disciples, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.