Anointing of the Sick
('Extreme Unction,' 'the Last Rites')
anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters [priests] of
the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil
in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick
person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any
sins, he will be forgiven.”
This sacrament is one of healing. The Church community intercedes on
behalf of the person who’s seriously ill or frail due to old age
with prayers that offer comfort and peace, strength to handle the
pain and suffering, and courage to face the end of one’s life. The
recipient is anointed with oil and his or her sins are forgiven.
This is the final preparation for one’s death.
years gone by, one of the last things a family would do for a dying
loved one was notify the local priest. He would hurry to the house
or hospital and administer the “last rites.”
general, the sacrament, then known as extreme unction (final
anointing), was reserved for someone on his or her death bed. Since
the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), that’s no longer the case.
known as the Anointing of the Sick or Sacrament of the Sick, it’s
commonly administered to anyone who has reached “the age of reason”
(around seven years old) who’s seriously ill. And it’s also
available for anyone who’s elderly. In either case, the recipient
does not have to be near death.
It’s important to explain this to your care-receiver. “Calling the
priest” does not mean he or she is dying. It does not
mean your dad is in worse shape than he realizes or that you’re
keeping some information about your mom’s medical condition from
It's also important to know the Anointing of the Sick isn’t a
“magical” sacrament designed to cure illness. Yes, sometimes a
person does get well. But the purpose of the sacrament is to give
the person grace and to forgive his or her sins.
administering the sacrament, the priest will anoint your loved one’s
forehead and hands with blessed oil and say some prayers. You, and
others, are welcome to be present.
could be that sometime during the year your care-receiver’s parish
has a communal celebration at the church, perhaps at a Sunday Mass.
person can receive this sacrament more than once. If you aren’t sure
if it would be appropriate for your loved one to be anointed, ask
your local priest.
more information see the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
To read more on
YourAgingParent.com about the
"Anointing of the Sick: Christ's Healing Touch,"