Divine Worship



Pastoral Notes - Anointing of the Sick


In parishes, regular catechesis about the anointing of the sick should be done through homilies, the parish bulletin, and education programs. Many of our people still have an understanding of anointing as the sacrament of approaching death, and thus avoid it, fear it, or delay it. Others have the misconception that the sacrament may be properly received by anyone, without regard to the person's state of health. With goodwill but misplaced inclusiveness, some parishes have even encouraged all who wish to receive anointing to do so. The nature of the sacrament in the life of the faithful is not honored by such an invitation. The sacrament is celebrated authentically only in the face of serious illness. (See Section 2)

The sick and their families need to be encouraged to celebrate anointing within the parish setting. Communal liturgies of anointing are a powerful invitation to see the parish as a source of consolation and strength in sickness. The scheduled availability of the sacrament may be advisable for very large parishes, parish clusters, or parishes near a hospital. Some parishes find a regularly scheduled celebration meets the needs of many of the faithful.

We should not neglect the Sunday homily as a source of catechesis for anointing. The many Gospel pericopes proclaiming Jesus' healing work provide excellent occasions for describing the sacrament of anointing as the ongoing healing touch of the Lord. Such a homily might include a description of the Church as the presence of Christ's healing power, the meaning and acceptance of sickness and old age, or a reflection on the central images, symbols, and actions of the rite.