For people who are struggling with pain, illness or disability, the Church offers the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Once referred to as Extreme Unction and ministered only to those in danger of death, it is a prayer seeking healing and strength. Through this sacrament people receive forgiveness for their sins and comfort in their suffering; they are restored in spirit; and, sometimes, they even experience the return of physical health. It may be celebrated individually and communally.
Throughout the Gospels, we see that the sick were a primary concern of Jesus. His ministry to the sick forms the basis for this sacrament. It dates from the ministry of Christ’s first disciples – it is actually referred to in the New Testament Letter of St James – and consists of the laying on of hands, anointing with Holy Oil, and a prayer that asks God to heal the sick person and to restore him/her to health. It is the Sacrament in which we ask for and experience God’s compassion for those who suffer some form of serious illness and for those who are at the point of death.
Parishioners who have a serious illness are welcome to have the Sacrament of the Sick (also known as the Anointing of the Sick) in their homes. This can take place in the presence of family and friends, if the sick person wishes, or during a weekday Mass in church.
This Sacrament is for the living and is not the ‘Last Rites’.