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Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick
(this reflection was put together from the various sources listed at the bottom of the piece)
The ministration known as the Last Rites in the Catholic Church does not constitute a distinct sacrament in itself. It is rather a set of sacraments given to people who are extremely ill and believed to be near death. These are the sacraments of Anointing of the Sick (which, in spite of not being reserved for the dying, is sometimes mistakenly supposed to be what is meant by "the Last Rites"), Penance and the Eucharist. If all three are administered immediately one after another, the normal order of administration is: first Penance then Anointing, then Viaticum.
The Last Rites are meant to prepare the dying person's soul for death, by providing absolution for sins by penance, sacramental grace and prayers for the relief of suffering through anointing, and the final administration of the Eucharist, known as "Viaticum," which is Latin for "provision for the journey." Reception of the Eucharist in this form is the only sacrament essentially associated with dying. Accordingly, "the celebration of the Eucharist as Viaticum is the sacrament proper to the dying Christian". The comfort of Viaticum has been valued by Christians since the beginning of Church history. The first ecumenical council, held at Nicaea in 325, decreed: "Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum" (canon 13). Having repented of our sins and received reconciliation, we travel with the Lord Jesus out of this earthly life and to eternal happiness with him in heaven.
In modern times, however, the use of the sacrament has been re-examined and expanded to all who are gravely ill or are about to undergo a serious operation, and the Church stresses a secondary effect of the sacrament: to help a person recover his health. Like Confession and Holy Communion, to which it is closely linked, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick can be repeated as often as is necessary. Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the 2012 World Day of the Sick on February 11th reminds us that anointing of the sick is one of the Church’s two “sacraments of healing”, together with the “medicine of confession”, penance.
The modern celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick recalls the early Christian use, going back to biblical times. When Christ sent His disciples out to preach, "they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:13). James 5:14-15 ties physical healing to the forgiveness of sins:
Pope Paul VI revised the format of the rite in 1972 (it was one of the last rites to be revised after the Second Vatican Council). In the Apostolic Constitution he reminds us that “The Catholic Church professes and teaches that the Sacred Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven Sacraments of the New Testament, that it was instituted by Christ and that it is "alluded to in Mark (Mk. 6:13) and recommended and promulgated to the faithful by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.
When in doubt, priests should err on the side of caution and provide the sacrament to the faithful who request it. Pope Benedict XVI noted that the sacrament, formerly known as extreme unction, may be administered in “various human situations connected with illness, and not only when a person is at the end of his or her life”.
Received in faith and in a state of grace, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick provides the recipient with a number of graces, including the fortitude to resist temptation in the face of death, when he is weakest; a union with the Passion of Christ, which makes his suffering holy; and the grace to prepare for death, so that he may meet God in hope rather than in fear. If the recipient was not able to receive the Sacrament of Confession, Anointing also provides forgiveness of sins. And, if it will aid in the salvation of his soul, Anointing may restore the recipient's health.
- Vatican Radio - Message of Pope Benedict XVI for 20th World Day of the Sick
- Catholic Herald - Pope urges priests to administer the Sacrament of the Sick more often
- American Catholic.org - The Sacraments
- Catholic Answers - Anointing of the Sick
- Catechism of the Catholic Church
- Apostolic Constitution - Anointing of the Sick - Pope Paul VI
Gospel - Mark 1:29-39
Resources for this weeks gospel:
- Word on Fire
- English Dominicans
- Sunday Reflections
- Renewal Ministries
- Centre for Liturgy at St Louis University
- Blue Eyed Ennis
Saints of the Week
Psalter - Week 1
February 6th - St Paul Miki and Companions (Martyrs)
February 7th - St Mel (Bishop) - Patron of diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise
February 8th - St Josephine Bakhita (virgin) - Patron of Sudan
February 9th - St Migeul Febres Cordero
February 10th - St Scholastica (Virgin) - sister of St Benedict
February 11th - Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick