“Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the presbyters of the Church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his” (James 5:14-15)
Continuing Jesus’ healing ministry, the Church brings comfort in times of physical distress through the sacrament of anointing of the sick. The miracles of Jesus in the New Testament testify to cures and much of Jesus’ ministry was spent healing the sick.
Recorded in Mark 6:7, Jesus commissioned the apostles to heal, and we find in the Acts of the Apostles that people brought the sick to Peter and John for healing.
Aware of this we should not wait until a person is at the point of death to call a priest.
The healing power of the Lord continued in the early Church through prayers and simple anointing. Gradually this healing rite developed into a church ceremony performed by clergy and was named a sacrament at the Second Council of Lyons.
Vatican II revised the ritual for anointing of the sick including pastoral care of the sick, the overall ministry to the sick, and supports the sick and the dying and their families.
Oil is the symbol and appropriate matter for the sacrament of the sick. Olive oil is recommended, but any plant oil that has been blessed can be used for the sacramental anointing.
A person may celebrate the sacrament of the anointing who is sick, the infirmed, the aged, those preparing for surgery, and children who understand the meaning of the sacrament.
Anointing of the sick is administered by a priest who selects readings and prayers appropriate for each case. The priest anoints the forehead and the open palms of the hands. The anointing brings spiritual peace, sacramental grace, and also the forgiveness of sins and the punishment attached to them.
The basic reason and purpose of the anointing of the sick is a sacramental healing grace for the infirm, aged, and the seriously ill. Aware of this we should not wait until a person is at the point of death to call a priest.