Jesus cures the Paralytic by Peter Koenig
Throughout his ministry, Jesus cared for the sick. When he sent out the disciples, healing was a major part of their ministry: “He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two…. They anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them“ (see Mark 6:7-13)
After Jesus ascended into heaven the early Church continued this healing ministry, joining together to pray for those ill. “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5: 14-16).
However, “Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name ‘Extreme Unction'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1512). The Second Vatican Council changed that. They returned the emphasis back to that of the early Church when anointing was “not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death“ (Liturgy, #73) but is intended for all those who are seriously ill.
Whilst the “Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick” remains a private comfort for those nearing death, it is also now offered to those facing serious illness of body and mind. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that when the sick are anointed they should be “assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention“ (#1516).
Thus in the Parish of St. Edward’s the Sacrament of Anointing of the sick is available both privately from one of our priests, and through special communal church services.
Based on Anointing the Sick: A Parish Sacrament by Thomas Richstatter. www.americancatholic.org/newsletters/cu/ac0196.asp