Anointing – Not Just for the Dying

A few weeks ago Sr. Mary Ann Walsh gave us 10 Good Reasons to Go to Confession (and they were good ‘uns, too!).

Today Sister gives us a brief ten-point look at what many call the most misunderstood of the sacraments:

The Sacrament of the Sick may be the most misunderstood of the seven sacraments, probably because of its informal name from years past, “Last Rites.” When you hear “Last Rites’ you see a movie scene of a somber priest who made it just in time standing beside someone gasping his last breath. It’s scary.

However, the Sacrament of the Sick is not just the emergency sacrament, though the dying should not hesitate to call a priest. Contemporary theology suggests more emphasis on sick than dying. It also stresses spiritual, psychological and emotional consolation as well as health in mind and body. It’s appropriate before someone goes into the hospital for surgery, for example. It is for serious illness, but not just when one is in the throes of one. It can be administered at the onset of illness or when the elderly indicate failing health.

Here are some suggestions for understanding the sacrament:

1. Concentrate on what it is, a sacrament to offer comfort not to foreshadow the grim reaper. Pope Benedict XVI spoke most humanly when he said that this sacrament that emphasizes “God’s unlimited goodness, must first of all bring healing to broken hearts.”

2. Make it a community experience. Even if the sacrament is administered somewhere other than at a service at church, others, such as family and friends, can be present. Allow those present to be part of the ceremony, offering some way to connect those present in their prayer for the sick person. Common prayer comforts everyone. Knowing people are praying with you and for you is a source of strength.

You’ll want to read it all. Sister is very right about community, as I shared here about my own anointing a few years back.

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