Sacrament of the Sick

Sacrament of the Sick (anointing) –  If you’re not well and at home, or in a nursing home, and wish to receive this sacrament, please let Fr Jimmy know.

If you know you’re going to hospital for an operation and would like to receive this sacrament then please do ask for it

What are the ‘Last Rites’?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Last Rites. It’s understandable; the pastoral approach of the Church has, over the past number of years, moved towards emphasising God’s healing and reconciliatory graces given to the sick, and has moved away from simply calling the priest just before the moment of death. The term ‘last rites’ is itself confusing because it fails to make the distinction between what has traditionally been called ‘viaticum’ and ‘ultimate’ or ‘extreme unction’ (both of these referring to anointing with oil).

Firstly, it’s always good to remember that the sacraments are for the living not for the dead. If a person falls gravely ill – taken to hospital perhaps – call the priest as soon as it’s convenient so that he may administer the sacraments. Do not wait for hours until the patient is at the point of death: how disappointing would it be if the priest to arrive only to find that the person has died? Once a person has died the body can be blessed, but the sacraments will no longer offer efficacious graces – the sacrament would simply be a hollow gesture.

The Anointing of the Sick (older parishioners will know this as extreme unction) takes places using special oil blessed by bishop. After the priest has laid his hands on the patient and prayed with them, he anoints their head and palms of their hands. This has the effect of offering spiritual graces to strengthen the gifts of faith, hope and charity in the ill person. The anointing also has the effect of removing all stain of sin, much like in confession. Sometimes, physical healings have happened at this moment where, in his divine providence, God sees this physical healing as a way of bringing about a deeper spiritual healing.

In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as Viaticum, that is, Holy Communion as ‘food for the journey’ from this life to the next. Clearly, this is dependant on the patient being able to digest the sacred host. As such, the possibility of giving communion as viaticum is not common. It’s viaticum which is technically the ‘last rite’, even though many think this term refers to the anointing of the sick.

As well as the anointing absolving the sins of the patient, the priest may also offer the Apostolic Pardon to the dying to remove any temporal punishment due to sin, thus sparing the need for purgatory.

You may receive the Sacrament of the Sick if you are ill and you may receive it more than once: it is possible to receive it several times. Also, if you know you are going into hospital for a major operation, please do ask the priest if you can have the sacrament before hand.

If you have any questions on the Sacrament of the Sick, Viaticum, or the Apostolic Pardon, please ask Fr Jimmy for more information. We are here to help. Also, the official Church teaching on this sacrament may be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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