Anointing of the Sick|
Within the Roman Catholic community, ministry to the sick and dying is
greatly valued. Through prayer, pastoral visits to the sick, the celebration of
the sacraments, and the commendation of the dead, the Church's ministers
(ordained and lay) continue the compassionate ministry of Jesus Christ.
the past forty years the Catholic Church has reformed its liturgical rites so
that they correspond more closely to the circumstances in which they are
celebrated and reveal more clearly the healing and life giving action of Christ.
When families are faced with serious illness and death, they fittingly turn to
the Church and its ministers for a sign of Christ's presence in the midst of
their pain or grief. Sometimes, they are unsure how to approach the Church or
what to ask for on these occasions. This webpage provides information regarding
the Church's pastoral care of the sick and dying today.
When someone is seriously ill
Contact your parish immediately
When someone in your family or a friend is seriously sick or confined to home
for a period of time, contact your parish immediately. Let your parish know of
the person's illness. Depending on the circumstances, a priest or lay minister
may be available to visit, pray with the sick person and perhaps bring
Communion. A priest may also celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick (Anointing)
with the sick person. In every case, the parish community can support the sick
person with prayer. When someone is seriously sick, it is important to contact
the parish immediately; don't wait until the person is unconscious or nearing
The reception of Communion unites the sick person with Christ and the members
of Christ's body, the Church. Unless medical personnel have indicated that there
are dietary restrictions, the Eucharist may. be brought to the sick by a priest,
deacon or lay minister. Sometimes a family member may be delegated by the pastor
to do this. In some parishes a minister may bring the Eucharist on a weekly
Anointing of the Sick
When a person is seriously ill, it is appropriate to celebrate the Sacrament
of the Sick (Anointing of the Sick). Formerly, this sacrament was called
"extreme unction" and was most often celebrated when a person was near death.
However, today this sacrament is celebrated with those who are seriously sick,
people who are diagnosed with life threatening illness, patients before surgery,
elderly people who are very weak, and sick children old enough to be comforted
by the sacrament. The Anointing of the Sick is no longer regarded as the "last
rites". It is celebrated only with the living and may be celebrated several
times, especially if the person's health gets worse. This wonderful sacrament is
ideally celebrated when the sick person is conscious; where possible, family
members ought to be present to participate in this celebration of the Church.
When a person has been away from the practice of the faith, the Sacrament of
Reconciliation (Penance) should be celebrated prior to the reception of
Communion. When a sick person desires to be reconciled to the Church and to
experience God's mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation a priest should be
notified. Arrangements can then be made for the sick person to celebrate this
sacrament in conjunction' with a pastoral visit or with the reception of the
Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick.
When a person is dying
Anointing of the Sick
When a person is dying a priest should be called to celebrate the Sacrament
of the Sick. When the Anointing of the Sick is celebrated on this occasion, the
sick person receives the grace of the Holy Spirit, is strengthened against evil
and prepared for eternal life.
Whenever possible, the "last rite" that is celebrated with a Catholic
Christian before death is Viaticum. In this sacrament, the dying person receives
the Eucharist as food for the passage through death to eternal life.
Prayers of Commendation
The dying person may be assisted on the journey through death to eternal life
with the Church's prayer. A pastoral care minister (priest, deacon or lay
person) may be called to be present at this time. Short prayers, brief Scripture
readings and prayers of commendation may be provided.
When a person has died
When a death occurs (whether anticipated or unexpected) it is fitting to
contact your parish (or the priest or pastoral minister on call at the hospital)
immediately. At this time the Church provides prayers of commendation, and
prayer for the deceased and the family and friends.
Some special circumstances
When an infant is in danger of death, a priest or , other pastoral care
minister should be called to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism. When such
ministers are unavailable, any person may baptize the child provided they
baptize with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and
have the intention of the Church with regard to Baptism. When a child is
stillborn, prayers of commendation are said for the child and prayers of
consolation are offered for the parents and family.
When a person has died as a result of suicide, the parish priest or pastoral
minister on call at the hospital should be contacted immediately. Or, this
occasion the Church provides prayers of commendation, and prayer for the
deceased and the family and friends.
Occasionally a priest may not be available for an emergency. In such a case,
other ministers of the Church should be contacted. By offering the Church's
prayer for the sick and dying or celebrating the rites of commendation for the
dead they can bring comfort and strength to the sick and consolation to the
Prepared by Halton Deanery The Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton © 2002.
For more information: contact your parish priest or the
coordinator of pastoral care in your local hospital.