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Anointing of the Sick
('Extreme Unction,' 'the Last Rites')

     “Is 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.”

--James 5:14-15

     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.

     In 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.”

     In 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.

     Now 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 her.

     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.

     In 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.

     It could be that sometime during the year your care-receiver’s parish has a communal celebration at the church, perhaps at a Sunday Mass.

     A 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.

     For more information see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1499-1532.

    To read more on YourAgingParent.com about the
"Anointing of the Sick: Christ's Healing Touch,"
click here.


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