Anointing of the Sick / Last Rites

From Apostolic times, those who ministered to the Christian community were urged to lay their hands upon the sick and to anoint them. The purpose of anointing is to bring healing. Most often this healing is spiritual, but on occasion, if God so desires, it may also be physical. Healing should not be confused with curing.

In the past, Anointing of the Sick was most often reserved to those in imminent danger of death. This is no longer the case. In fact, the preference is to celebrate this sacrament as often as the sick person feels would be helpful. While it is administered to those with a life-threatening disease or condition, it should not be put off to a time when the individual cannot actively participate in the rite — in fact, it can be administered at first diagnosis and as often therafter as appropriate; perhaps at significant points in the progression of the disease.

Please do not wait until the last moment to celebrate this sacrament in the company of friends and family. Its effect on the patient and others will be more peaceful and comforting when it is not celebrated in an atmosphere of crisis. To arrange for the celebration of Anointing of the Sick, please call the parish office.

“The Last Rites”

There is some confusion, often engendered by the media, over what is sometimes called “The Last Rites.” Contrary to widespread misunderstanding, this term is not the same as Anointing of the Sick.

The proper celebration for those about to die is Viaticum, the last time that person receives the Body and Blood of Christ. This is a special Eucharistic service celebrated near the time of death. Viaticum may be administered by a priest, deacon or a trained layperson. If administered by a priest, an opportunity for Reconciliation (or confession) may be provided as part of the rite if the patient desires.

There is a provision for Viaticum to be administered together with Anointing of the Sick if the patient has not recently been anointed. When these two rites are celebrated together, they are often called “Last Rites,” although this is not the proper term for it.

When calling for ministry to someone gravely ill, please explain the situation. This will help us to determine whether your loved one requires Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, Viaticum or a combination thereof. If at all possible, please do not put off Anointing of the Sick to the last moment; call us well in advance to permit a proper celebration.

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