Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is both “a liturgical and a communal celebration.” In the family home, hospital, or church, members of the Body of Christ gather for the sacramental rite led by a priest. The Penitential Rite followed by the Liturgy of the Word and sacramental anointing of the sick can inspire and comfort both those who are ill and their family and friends who are gathered (CCC, nos. 1517-18). Many parishes have communal celebrations at which many persons receive the sacrament and we are one of them. These sacramental celebrations are a “source of strength amid pain and weakness, hope amid despair” and a “joyful encounter” for the entire community (Christifideles Laici, no. 54).
Anointing of the Sick is the sacrament that is received by those who are ill or suffering. By the sacred anointing and the prayer of the priest, the whole Church commends those who are sick to Christ. The sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gifts of strength, faith, peace, and courage, and his or her suffering is united with the suffering of Christ for the building up of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], nos. 1520-23). Through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the Church carries out Jesus’ mission of compassion and healing for the sick. The one who is ill can also be a minister to others. By uniting their suffering to Christ, those who are sick can be signs of faith and witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection to the entire community (Pope John Paul II, Christifideles Laici [The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World], no. 54).
The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.