Where does the origin of our belief in this Sacrament come from?
1) Scripture: "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, 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)
2) Tradition of the Church: In the ancient text, Apostolic Tradition, that dates back to 215AD, it is described how the first Christians lived. In this text there is a rite of blessing of the oil of the sick by the bishop at the end of the Eucharistic prayer for Mass.
What is the Anointing of the Sick?: It is one of the seven Sacraments and it is often the last one to be received. Through the sacrament of anointing, Christ strengthens the faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means of support.
What does it do? This Sacrament has primarily a spiritual effect, although if it is God's will physical healing can be brought about through it. The spiritual effects are such that there is healing from sin, the grace to face illness with trust in God, the strength to resist temptation to doubt God's love, and the spiritual aid to prepare for one's passing from this life. This anointing also has an effect for the whole Church as it unites the sick person to Passion of Christ and so makes the Church ever more united to her Source of life and love.
Who can receive this Sacrament? Any member of the Christian faithful (baptized) who health is seriously (gravely) impaired by sickness or old age. As the Sacrament should not be delayed till the last moments of life, it is envisioned that the person is still conscious and communicative. In order to receive the Anointing fruitfully, the recipient must be in a state of grace (without serious/grave sin). It is for this reason that the priest will offer the Sacrament of Confession before the anointing.
What happens in the Sacrament? The anointing can take place in any location, it should be celebrated with members of the family, friends, and others of the Christian community whenever this is possible. The priest (or bishop) brings the consecrated oil called the "Oil of the Sick" to the specified place. He anoints the sick person on the forehead while saying, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit." And then he anoints the palms of both hands saying, "May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."
When should I contact the priest?: This Sacrament should be celebrated when a Christian's health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age. The Sacrament should not be delayed to the last moment of life as this sacrament cannot be administered after the person has died. It is best suited when the recipient is still capable of active participation in the sacrament.
Can a person receive it more than once? It can be repeated:
a)when the sick person recovers after being anointed and, at a later time, becomes sick again
b) when during the same illness he condition of the sickperson becomes more serious
The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Anointing of the Sick:
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas 5:14-15).
The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.
The proper time for receiving this holy anointing has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age.
Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens.
Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, using oil blessed by the bishop, or if necessary by the celebrating presbyter himself.
The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament.
The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
- the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church
- the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age
- the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance
- the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul
- the preparation for passing over to eternal life.