The Sacrament I, and many others, have the least experience with is the Anointing of the Sick. The Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament that I have honestly never seen administered. I realize that as I grow older I will probably see this Sacrament more and more as many of my loved ones experience serious illness.
Since I know little about this Sacrament, I was glad to turn to the Catechism and learn more about it. I had many questions before coming to the CCC. I was curious about who could receive the sacrament, when, and how often. Here are a few typical questions that I myself have had with answers from the Catechism.
- QUESTION: Who can receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick? ANSWER: Essentially any Christian who is “in danger of death because of illness or old age” (CCC 1528). The Anointing of the Sick isn’t a Sacrament of initiation but in some instances I believe that it does at least prepare us for the next stage or phase in our Christian lives.
- QUESTION: Who can administer the Sacrament? ANSWER: According to the CCC, “only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick” (CCC 1516).
- QUESTION: Is there a biblical foundation to this Sacrament? ANSWER: The Catechism points to Jas. 5:14-15 which states: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of the faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
- QUESTION: Can someone receive this Sacrament more than once? ANSWER: Yes. If someone receives the Sacrament and their condition worsens, then they can receive it again. Also if someone receives the Sacrament and improves but later becomes seriously ill again, then they can receive again as well. The Anointing of the Sick can also be received before a major operation.
The Anointing of the Sick is a beautiful Sacrament which I pray I will receive when the time comes, whether I receive it and improve, or receive it as the sacramentum exeutium (the sacrament of those departing). I encourage you to give those suffering towards possible death comfort through such things as holy cards and perhaps schedule a priest to administer the Sacrament. Have you had any experience with the Anointing of the Sick? What questions do you have about this Sacrament?