Anointing of the Sick

You recently offered the anointing of the sick. Can you say more about this sacrament?

James 5: 14-15: “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.”
“The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members” (CCC 1421).  Anointing of the Sick along with the sacrament of Penance, are the two sacraments called healing sacraments.  Every year at the Chrism Mass before Easter, the bishop blesses olive oil (Oil for the Sick and Oil of Catechumens) and consecrates olive oil mixed with Balsam (Sacred Chrism) to be distributed to the parishes for the priests of the diocese.  When the oils from this mass are returned to the parish they are usually stored in a special location called an ambry. 
The Oil for the Sick is used for this anointing of the sick.  Often priests carry a small vial with this oil so as to be always ready to administer this sacrament. 
The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.  Danger is not limited to those with advanced age.  I have anointed children at birth who were in danger as well as those going into surgery.  I have had some say I was giving the sacrament to healthy people.  My approach is simple.  I do not have the medical knowledge to know who is in danger, so I let the recipient decide.  This also goes for old age.  Here I am reminded of the joke that states that no one dies from old age today, they die from illnesses.  Besides, as I have gotten older myself, “old age” seems to have gotten older and older.  So again, I let the recipient decide.   For caretakers, when people are dying, it is best to ask the priest to anoint the person early in the process, as he may not be available at the last moment.
I am aware there are non-ordained groups that use an oil and anoint people for healing, however, a priest alone validly administers the anointing of the sick.  This issue was debated a few years ago and the Church sticks with a priest only because, like the sacrament of penance, the anointing of the sick involves the forgiveness of sins, which is also reserved to priests.

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Author: yuengerwv

Retired Catholic Priest

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