Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick

If you or a loved one are seriously ill, facing surgery or near death, please contact Fr. Bob or Fr. Adam to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. Call the office to make arrangements at 724.941.9406.

Sacrament of Anointing: Not Just For The Dying

There continues to be confusion over the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick both in its name and its understanding. Many people’s understanding continues to reflect their reference to it by its old name of Extreme Unction or “Last Rights” which was changed by the Second Vatican Council over 50 years ago! I guess old understandings take a while to change.

The reason was to better reflect a fuller sense of what this sacrament is all about. Certainly, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick includes everything that the old understanding included — and so much more. Like all the sacraments, the Sacrament of Anointing goes back to Jesus’ own ministry, when He healed people. In his ministry Jesus’ healing was available to all the sick, not just those who were dying. So it is with the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. It’s not simply for those who are dying but for anyone who is seriously ill.

When one receives the Sacrament of Anointing, one is placing himself or herself into God’s hands and asking for God’s healing. “God I place myself into your hands to be healed, if it be your will, or to be open to whatever the next step is in my life.” What a beautiful moment where one acknowledges that he or she is not the master of his or her own destiny and asks God for help. And God gives his healing grace to us. So, perhaps the greatest thing about this sacrament is that one never knows exactly how God will bestow his healing grace upon us. The results are not limited in any way. One result of this sacrament is the forgiveness of sins, which frees our minds and brings us peace. There are also spiritual benefits. For one who is dying this means helping to prepare a person for death. For the living this can mean feeling close to God. Also, for the living we believe that this sacrament can have real physical healing as well, if it is in God’s will to do so. I can personally attest to physical healing that I have seen given through this sacrament. But again, the idea of the sacrament is that we place ourselves into God’s hands and open ourselves up to his healing presence, however and whatever that might be.

As a result, we are able to receive this sacrament over and over throughout our lives. Anyone who is going into the hospital for any procedure can receive this sacrament. In such a case, one’s sins are forgiven and also we use a beautiful prayer at the end of the anointing to pray for the doctors and nurses who will be caring for the person. The elderly can receive this sacrament as well as anyone who is dealing with illness in his or her life. And, of course, the dying. With those who are dying I would say to receive it as soon as possible. One reason for this is obvious: so that the person knows what he or she is receiving and is able to receive fullness of spiritual benefits such as peace of mind or whatever God wishes to give. The second reason is not so obvious but just as important: so that one receives this sacrament before one dies. Sometimes, there are people who think it can only be given at the moment of death. Not only do we not always know when exactly that will be, but with fewer priests it’s not always possible for a priest to be present at the moment of death. Then, there’s disappointment both in the case of the family because the priest couldn't be there at moment of death, and by we priests who see it as a lost opportunity to receive God’s healing grace. “Why did they wait so long,” we think.

So, don’t be afraid to ask the priest to be anointed whether you are going into the hospital or feel the need to receive God’s healing grace. It doesn't take very long, we priests are happy to do it, and its benefits are endless.

From Fr. Bob's Spirit of Things