Pastoral Notes - Anointing of the Sick

Introduction

These notes are intended to foster and guide an authentic celebration of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick in the parishes and institutions of the Archdiocese. The Church's special concern for the sick is grounded in the conviction that every human person possesses unique worth and dignity in the eyes of God. Even amid the pain and suffering of sickness, this dignity is undiminished. Faith assures us that just as the Father's unfailing love was with Jesus in his suffering and death, that same love is available to Christ's members who suffer illness and pain. As the Introduction to the Pastoral Care of the Sick. Rites of Anointing and Viaticum (#5) reminds us: 'through the sacrament of anointing, Christ strengthens the faithful who are afflicted by illness, providing them with the strongest means of support.' Particular pastoral responsibilities addressed in these notes are:

  • to make the sacrament available to every seriously ill Catholic who seeks to be anointed
  • to celebrate the sacrament authentically and effectively in a variety of settings including the church, hospital, nursing home, and private homes
  • to correct the tendency in recent years to administer the sacrament too widely to a variety of persons who do not meet the norms for reception of anointing
  • to provide catechesis to our people about the meaning of the sacrament with encouragement to celebrate when the need arises
  • to guide parish visitors and eucharistic ministers with an understanding of the proper rites for the sick and the dying.

Today, priest chaplains are not available for full-time hospital ministry in many areas of the Archdiocese. The obligations of parish ministry today often do not allow the priest large blocks of time to spend in hospital ministry. Both hospital and parish need to seek out ways in which the anointing of the sick can be celebrated well and, above all, be available to all the faithful who are facing serious illness or hospitalization. That is the focus of these pastoral notes.