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Anointing of the Sick

Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, we experience our powerlessness and limitations. Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make us more mature, helping us to discern in what is not essential so that we can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

The Sacrament of the Sick (also called "Anointing of the Sick" or "Extreme Unction") gives healing grace to strengthen those who are being tried by illness. The sacrament is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with blessed oil (pressed from olives or from other plants) saying, only once: "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 Administers

Only validly ordained priests and bishops may administer the sacrament of the Sick.

Who Receives

The Anointing of the Sick is not only for people who are at the point of death. As soon as someone is in danger of death from sickness or old age, it is appropriate for them to receive the sacrament. If a sick person who received an anointing recovers, they receive this sacrament again if necessary. If the person's illness returns or becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is also appropriate to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. (CCC 1514)

Effects of the sacrament

A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age.

Union with the passion of Christ. By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion.

An ecclesial grace. The sick who receive this sacrament, by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ, contribute to the good of the People of God.

A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing). (CCC 1520)

For more information

Sacraments of Healing (CCC Part 2, Section 2, Chapter 2)