Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Please see the letter below from Fr. Kevin.
This week Father Steven has asked me to write a column about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Whenever I think about the sacraments, I cannot help but remember what Christ told his disciples in Mt 28:20, “And Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” The sacraments are a visible sign of this invisible reality; that Christ has never and will never abandon his people. Jesus Christ established his Church for the purpose of our salvation and endowed her with the seven sacraments that sustain us and provide us with grace at the different moments of our lives. The sacraments are not only a ritual that we are mandated to do; they are means through which we can experience the love of God in this world as attested by Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.
We have the Sacraments of Initiation which are Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation; they introduce us into the Christian life and enable us to live a life of virtue according to the will of God. The Sacraments of Service, Matrimony and Holy Orders give us the grace to help others get to heaven. Lastly, the Sacraments of Healing, Reconciliation (Confession) and Anointing of the Sick help us to heal when we reject the grace God by sinning against his commandments. The Sacrament of Reconciliation reconciles us to the Father by receiving his forgiveness and heals our soul when it has been wounded by sin. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick bestows on us another form of healing. When we are suffering from an illness or old age, we can ask the Church for an outpouring of grace that help us to be certain that Christ is with us in our physical infirmities. It also heals our souls from any sort of doubt or resentment that might arise against God or others on account of the suffering.
Like all the sacraments, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, was established by Jesus Christ himself as he went around preaching and healing during his earthly life. We can read in Scripture that Christ healed many who were sick, and this was a sign of the full spiritual healing that he intends to bring to humanity. The Anointing of the Sick is not merely a ritual remembering what Christ did in the past; it is Christ himself coming to give us the bodily and spiritual healing that we all need during the time of illness. The Catechism explains, “The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life” (CCC 1532).
There are some misconceptions regarding the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites. Some think that they are both the same thing, and this leads them to wait until imminent death to receive the Anointing of the Sick. Some might also think that receiving the Anointing of the Sick will trigger death. This is NOT the case. Last Rites are the set of prayers and sacraments that occur when a person is preparing to die, when it’s evident that the person is in the process of dying. When we talk of Last Rites, we are talking about Eucharistic Viaticum, which is the receiving of Communion and last Confession as a person is preparing to enter eternal life. A part of Last Rites, a person may also receive the Anointing of the Sick, but it is IDEAL that they should have received it long BEFORE they began the process of dying.
The Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament that is administered for the bodily and spiritual healing of a person who is seriously ill of any age. That person may not be dying but may be at serious risk from illness. The purpose of Anointing of the Sick is to bring about a healing and if its God’s will a bodily one, but most certainty a spiritual one with the hope that a person may then go on to live life and recover. The Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (CCC 1514).
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is truly a gift from the Lord. In my ministry, I have witnessed how the sacrament helps the elderly and the sick go through their sicknesses united with Christ and filled with hope. I encourage you or anyone that might need to receive it. Father Steven and I will be holding an Anointing of the Sick service in the Upper Church on Saturday, December 2nd at 5:00 PM. See you there!
Father Steven Clemence