Anointing provides God’s grace in time of illness
By Julie Filby
While anointing of the sick, previously called “last rites,” has historically been associated with the dying, it is a sacrament for the living.
“All sacraments are for the living,” said Deacon Charles Parker, director of the Office of Liturgy for the Archdiocese of Denver. “Anointing of the sick is not the last sacrament anymore, the Church says Holy Communion (Viaticum) is.”
Anointing of the sick is for those who are seriously impaired by sickness, old age, or will be having serious surgery. It is meant to provide grace, peace and courage to help overcome difficulties and anxiety, strengthen one from “discouragement and anguish in the face of death,” and lead the person to “healing of the soul but also of the body if such is God’s will” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1520).
It is administered by a priest because it is often accompanied by the sacrament of reconciliation.
“People often waited till the last moment to receive it and to have their last confession heard,” said Deacon Parker. “But now the sacrament can be administered with or without confession.
“So don’t wait till 3 a.m. on a Friday to call Father to the hospital,” he advised. “Call on the first onset of serious illness.”
No one should wait until their loved one is unconscious and close to death because the person who is sick should be able to participate in the sacrament to the extent that they’re able, he said. But when a late-night or early-morning call is warranted, every rectory has an after-hours phone number for sacramental emergencies.
The sacrament of anointing is one that can be repeated if a person falls ill again or the condition becomes more serious.
“It’s not just a one-time offer,” Deacon Parker said. “Just as we are encouraged to receive Holy Communion frequently, it’s true of all the sacraments that are repeatable such as reconciliation, anointing, Holy Eucharist.
It should be repeated as necessary to give the person strength, comfort and unite their suffering with Christ.
“The Church has always believed that redemptive suffering has value,” he said.
Some parishes have a monthly communal celebration of anointing such as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Denver. On the second Saturday of every month at 8 a.m., a healing Mass is celebrated, followed by anointing of the sick and a blessing with a relic of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer and terminal illness.
Attendance at the Mass averages 35 to 70, according to Servite Father Mark Franceschini, O.S.M., in residence at the parish; some traveling from as far as Aurora or Centennial.
“I think it reflects the people’s need to seek the spiritual help they hunger for,” said Father Franceschini.
“The Mass focuses on the healing of God, regardless of what healing is needed,” he continued. “It may not be reduced to only physical healing; the emotional or spiritual healing needed may be deeper.”
Seeking healing is always an invitation from the Holy Spirit.
“(Anointing) is a need to be at peace to face the challenges of one’s condition,” he said. “To be renewed in Spirit so they can face their life … and the meaning beyond this life.”
All are invited to the next healing Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 8 a.m. Feb. 9, followed by anointing, St. Peregrine blessing and an opportunity for confession. It will be held in the parish hall as the church is in the process of remodeling.
For a brochure explaining anointing of the sick, contact the Office of Liturgy at 303-715-3156 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEB. 11: World Day of the Sick
On Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Church will celebrate World Day of the Sick. The day, instituted by Blessed John Paul II in 1992, was chosen to be on the feast of Lourdes because so many pilgrims to the holy site have reportedly been healed by the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
World Day of the Sick reminds the faithful to pray intensely and sincerely for those who are sick, invites Christians to reflect on and respond to human suffering, and recognizes all persons who work in health care and serve as caregivers.
In a message for the 2013 World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI called on everyone to be a “good samaritan.”
“We need to draw from the infinite love of God … for those suffering in body and spirit who ask for our help, whether or not we know them and however poor they may be,” he wrote in his message for World Day of the Sick 2013. “This is true, not only for pastoral or health care workers, but for everyone, even for the sick themselves.
To read the full message, visit www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/sick/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20130102_world-day-of-the-sick-2013_en.html.