Divine Worship


Theological Foundations

Pastoral Notes - Annointing of the Sick


Jesus in his ministry showed special concern for healing the sick. 'Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.' (Matt. 9:35)

In response to the Lord's example the New Testament Church anointed its sick so that 'the prayer of faith will save the sick one and the Lord will raise him up." (James 5:15) As Jesus healed body and soul, so the anointing of the sick gives the grace of the Holy Spirit to those who are sick: by this grace the whole person is helped and saved, sustained by trust in God and strengthened against the temptations of the Evil One and against anxiety over death. According to our Catholic tradition, a return to physical health may follow the reception of the sacrament if it would be beneficial to the sick person's salvation. If necessary, the sacrament also forgives sins and completes Christian penance. (Pastoral Care of the Sick #6) Anointing is not, however, a substitute for the sacrament of penance, which should be celebrated with the sick whenever possible and appropriate.

The anointing ought to be celebrated in the context of total pastoral care of the sick by the entire Christian community. Such care includes public and private prayer for the sick, Holy Communion for the sick, and the celebration of the sacrament of penance. It is important to state that the proper sacrament for the dying Christian is viaticum. The central place of this sacrament in the face of death is often not fully appreciated by the Catholic faithful.

In the celebration of the sacrament of anointing of the sick, the faithful meet Jesus in his healing ministry. In the sacrament, the power of Christ's death and resurrection, the Paschal Mystery, touches the lives of those who in faith carry the cross of Jesus in their mortal bodies. (2 Cor. 4, 10) Long pastoral practice has taught us the power of the sacrament to transform human suffering with meaning and dignity. As baptism first unites us to Christ's death and resurrection, and the Eucharist reaffirms our union with the Lord, so the anointing conforms us in sickness to Christ's glorious cross.

The care of the sick is the work of the whole community of the baptized. Gathered in faith, the community draws healing and comfort, strength and consolation from God's Word. In three distinct actions, the Church celebrates anointing: the prayer of faith, the laying on of hands, and the anointing with the oil of the sick. Carried out in unhurried reverence and prayer, these actions reveal God's healing and saving work in Christ.