Anointing of the Sick: A gift of grace in the Holy Spirit
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).
What is Anointing of the Sick?
Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament in which a person who is ill is anointed with blessed oil and prayed over by a priest.
It is meant not only for people who are dying, but for anyone who seeks forgiveness, comfort, and strength from Christ the Divine Physician. If you are suffering serious illness or facing surgery, or if you are an elderly person whose frailty has become more pronounced, you are encouraged to seek this sacrament.
The hoped-for effect is that – if it is God’s will – the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or old age.
The last rites (also known as the Commendation of the Dying) are the last prayers and ministrations given, when possible, shortly before someone’s death. In general, under normal circumstances, last rites for a Catholic might include the sacraments of Penance, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Communion. When Holy Communion is administered to a Catholic who is dying, it is called “viaticum” – food for the final journey, Christ accompanying us with the hope of resurrection with the food of heaven.
Any baptized Catholic who has reached the age of reason (usually around the age of 7) and is in danger due to sickness or old age, facing surgery, or near death may request the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Search our parish directory to find a priest near you.
If you have a sacramental emergency (a Catholic who is in imminent danger of dying and wishes to receive last rites), call the church nearest your location, ask for a priest and tell them it is a sacramental emergency.
No. This sacrament is certainly used for that purpose, but it is also efficacious for people who are facing surgery, awaiting a diagnosis or experiencing serious health concerns.
Reception of the sacraments when a Catholic is near death is called “last rites.” The last rites (also known as the Commendation of the Dying) are the last prayers and ministrations given, when possible, shortly before someone’s death. In general, under normal circumstances, last rites for a Catholic might include Anointing of the Sick, as well as the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist.
No. A person can receive this sacrament multiple times.
A baptized non-Catholic can receive this sacrament in certain limited situations, particularly if they are at the point of death. Contact a parish near you for more information.
Yes. The Catholic News Herald publishes a robust Funeral Planning Guide (print and online) each year. See below for details.