Welcome back from the Easter break. In today’s lesson, we shall examine the Catholic sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. After defining the sacrament, we will discuss its history, the circumstances under which it is administered, its effects, and finally its symbols.
The Anointing of the Sick
It is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church instituted by Jesus himself. This sacrament serves as a channel for special graces from God that comfort and heal, physically and/or spiritually, people who are seriously ill and in danger of death.
History of the Sacrament
According to Catholic doctrine, the Anointing of the Sick has its roots in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus healed people physically and spiritually, and He instructed His apostles to do the same. In Mark 6:7-13, for instance, Jesus sent His 12 apostles out in pairs, giving them the authority to heal the sick. They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them’ (Mark 6:13). This Sacrament is a continuation of this ministry.
Thus, in his epistle, James says, “Is any 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; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas. 5:14–15).
Does a person have to be dying to receive this sacrament? No. The Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.”(CCC 1514).
How is it Administered?
The oil used in administering the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is called Oil of the Sick. It is one of the three Holy oils blessed by the bishop of the diocese on Holy Thursday morning or another day within the Holy Week, prior to Holy Thursday, the other two Holy Oils being Holy Chrism and the Oil of Catechumens.
Oil of the Sick is pure olive oil—nothing being added except the blessing of the bishop. Its appropriateness as part of the outward sign of Anointing of the Sick is evident from the healing and strengthening effects which are characteristic of olive oil.
The essence of the sacrament lies in the actual anointing and the short prayer which accompanies the anointing.
In the essential rite of the sacrament, a priest or bishop lays his hands on the sick person’s head. Then he anoints the sick person on the forehead and palms of the hands with the oil of the sick. During the anointing, the priest or bishop says the following words: ‘Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord Who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.’
Who Can Receive This Sacrament?
Any baptized Catholic who has reached the age of reason (usually around seven years old) can receive this sacrament if he or she is gravely ill and in danger of death. Many Catholics also request the Anointing of the Sick before major surgery. Elderly Catholics who are experiencing the frailty and health challenges of old age are also welcome to receive the Anointing. The sacrament may be received more than once, even during the same illness if it progresses in seriousness.
We shall have a Wednesday edition on 26th April 2017, when we shall look at the effects of this sacrament as well as the symbols used with their meaning. Until then, keep reading for enlightenment.
God bless you.
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