Anointing of the Sick

As all Catholics know, the Church has seven sacraments. These sacraments provide the faithful with seven grace-filled encounters with Christ, and each sacrament has a special effect upon the recipient.

Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament that can only be administered by a priest or bishop, and it confers healing (most commonly spiritual, and possibly physical) upon the person. It prepares them, in the face of death, to meet God. Secondly, it also absolves the sins that a person may have committed. (However, this does not mean one may bypass the sacrament of Reconciliation if one is lucid and capable of confessing one’s sins.)

Quite often people refer to Anointing of the Sick as “Last Rites.” However, properly speaking, Last Rites refers to three sacraments received at the same time: Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation, and the Eucharist. One of the reasons for this confusion is that prior to Vatican II, this anointing was referred to as Extreme Unction (Extreme Anointing), and people wrongly concluded that this sacrament should only be received at the time of death.

Many are unaware that the sacraments are for the living, for those who are sick. Once or twice a year, a priest receives a call to the hospital to anoint someone who passed away an hour earlier. Unfortunately, the priest may not confer the sacrament––and this can often cause great misunderstanding and anger. Yet, it does make sense if one stops to think about it. Only a living person can confess their sins. Only a living person can receive the Eucharist. And even if Anointing of the Sick is a “passive sacrament,” it requires the recipient to be alive to receive the grace. A dead body cannot receive that grace because the eternal soul is no longer present.

Unlike the Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick is not a “frequent sacrament.” It is received as one’s health changes, that is, it is to be received once for the same illness. Nevertheless, there are stages in many illnesses, where one may be anointed several times.

What happens if, for some reason, no priest is available to anoint a person when they are dying? The Church, in exercising the Power of the Keys, gives this generous explanation to the faithful: “If a priest cannot be present, holy Mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained .... at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or a cross is recommended in obtaining this indulgence” (from the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum).

Here at Our Lady of Lourdes, we have two Anointing Masses throughout the year where we celebrate this sacrament. Coordinated by the Pastoral Care Ministry.  

For a medical emergency call the Parish Office 302.629.3591 anytime day or night, your call will be directed appropriately.

May all of us, as old age creeps up and health fails, partake of this sacrament, for it is meant to strengthen us in spirit, and may also strengthen us in body.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Roman Catholic Church 
Seaford, Delaware

(Parish Office: 302-629-3591 / Email: