Anointing of the sick

This month the Sun continues its series on the seven sacraments with the sacrament of the sick.

This sacrament is also known as the “rite of anointing” or the “anointing of the sick.” According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), this sacrament is administered to a baptized Catholic, “who has reached the age of reason,” and is in a weakened condition as the result of a serious illness, accident, old age, or administered in anticipation of surgery.    A common misconception regarding this sacrament is the belief that it can only be administered to those “near death,” which is incorrect. The sacrament can be administered whenever there is serious concern regarding the health of a baptized Catholic, and can be administered more than once in a person’s lifetime, if circumstances dictate a need.

“There are two reasons a person should receive the sacrament of the sick,” stated Father Robert P. Hyde, pastor and on-call chaplain for St. Margaret’s Parish in Mattydale, and the on-call chaplain for Onondaga County. “The sacrament is to bring healing, both spiritual and physical, and to bring God into the process of healing by forgiving a person’s venial sins.”

Only bishops and priests can minister the sacrament of the sick. When administering the sacrament, the priest or bishop first extends a penitential rite, or the confession and absolution of sin, which is then followed by a Scripture reading. Friends and family members in attendance are asked to pray for the sick as the priest anoints the forehead and hands of the sick person with the “oil of the sick,” which is olive oil that has been specially blessed by a bishop during Holy Thursday services.

The anointing of the sick bestows a special grace on the recipient that brings comfort, strengthens the soul and eases anxiety, fear and doubt. The anointing of the sick also brings to the recipient a sense of peace, and in the case of extreme illness, prepares the soul for the entrance into heaven by the forgiveness of sin.

“It’s important that people connect with God during an illness,” explained Father Hyde. “The worst part about being sick is it disconnects you from everything you know. You may be in a hospital and your entire routine is different and you can’t see friends and family. The beauty of this sacrament is it brings people to prayer. I often recommend to family members to pray for the person who is ill. Even if they feel scared or awkward, the act of praying for healing, both spiritual and physical, is a great thing to do for someone you love.”

Although a chaplain can be called to a home or hospital bedside to administer the sacrament of the sick, Father Hyde explained that a person can also contact his or her parish and make arrangements to be anointed before being admitted into a hospital for surgery or a medical procedure.

“I also recommend anointing for those with a chronic illness such as diabetes, or for those who have grown weak, due to advanced age. This sacrament gives a person a sense of peace and reminds them, even in illness, they are never alone —God is always with them.”

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