J.M.J. It is most unfortunate that the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick--one of the "seven signs instituted by Christ to effect the grace they signify"--is usually referred to only when one (or one's family member) requires it. This Sacrament merits its own frequent discussion because of its inherent worth and clear spiritual implications for disciples of Jesus Christ.
Look no further than the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a useful presentation of this Sacrament. In numbers 1499 through 1532, one discovers the Church's teaching pertaining to the Anointing of the Sick, which is one of the "Sacraments of Healing." The Sacrament's meaning, history of institution, recipient, minister, celebration and effects are discussed, along with a description of Viaticum--"The Last Sacrament of the Christian."
The Catechism asserts "that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as Viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life 'the Sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland' or the Sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage" (CCC, 1525).
Often, Catholics will pose questions about the administration of this Sacrament. Here are three of the most asked questions.
1. I am planning to have major bypass surgery. Should I ask my parish priest to anoint me or is it best to wait for the priest who serves as hospital Chaplain to do so?
Either your parish priest or the priest-hospital Chaplain may anoint you. It does make sense to ask your parish priest so that others may more easily be present. Furthermore, since the priest-hospital Chaplain receives numerous requests for the Sacraments when new patients arrive, it can be helpful to him if you have already gone to Confession and been anointed.
2. My elderly mother lives with me. If I have to call my parish priest to my house for the Anointing, what should I prepare for him?
Some Catholics home have a "Sick Call Set," complete with candles, a holy water bottle, a white cloth, etc. Most priests carry with them exactly what they need; however, whatever you can provide is valuable. (Please remember to give Father specific directions so he can locate your house.)
3. My uncle has been anointed at least three times. His health has been poor for months. When death approaches, should I call our priest again?
The Anointing of the Sick may be administered to the same person more than once depending on the worsening of his condition. The Sacrament "takes hold" when it is worthily received. Although your uncle has been anointed, it is important to have the priest there, if at all possible, at the moment of death in order to recite the Prayers for the Dying and to impart the "Apostolic Pardon."
Jesus Christ gave us this Sacrament, as He did the other six, for our growth in holiness. May the members of His Chaste Bride the Church deepen in their appreciation for the wonders that this Sacrament confers.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
(From The Catholic Servant. Used with permission.)