Sunday, August 30, 2009
The Sacrament of Extreme Unction (Annointing of the Sick)

This post in a continuation in the series of posts on each of the Seven Sacraments.

Funerals have in recent decades turned almost into celebrations when they should instead be times of great mourning and prayer for the salvation of the deceased – we do not know if a person is in heaven unless they are a canonized saint. For this reason, pray for the salvation of the deceased and dying – do not assume that they are in heaven (unless they are a young child who died before the age of reason). To assume that the deceased is in heaven and not pray for their salvation is a serious neglect, one in which could cause your loved one to suffer in Purgatory.

For reception of the Sacrament, a person must be a baptized Catholic who has reached the age of reasoning. While before Vatican II, a person was given Extreme Unction while "in extremis" (in imminent danger of dying), nowadays people can too whimsically receive this Sacrament because many people – such as the elderly – receive it who are not in an imminent danger of death. Care should be given to ensure that everyone who does receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction has the proper dispositions so that it is validly received.

Catholics are anointed with oil in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders (if ordained) and lastly with oil through the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, named properly since "extreme" means "last" and unction refers to the physical action of the anointing with oil. And while it may be repeated to a person suffering from a serious illness every month to six weeks, it may also be given again to a sick person who recovers and suffers a relapse. Despite this "Extreme Unction" remains the proper name of the Sacrament.

As explicitly stated in the Baltimore Catechism, "Extreme Unction may be given to all Christians dangerously ill, who have ever been capable of committing sin after baptism and who have the right dispositions for the Sacrament. Hence it is never given to children who have not reached the use of reason, nor to persons who have always been insane" (Q. 959). With the dispositions of a resignation to the will of God in regards to recovery, being in the state of grace (with feeling contrition for sins at a minimum), and a general desire to receive the Sacrament, the Sacrament of Extreme Unction is never given to heretics "because they cannot be supposed to have the intention necessary for receiving it, nor the desire to make use of the Sacrament of Penance in putting themselves in a state of grace" (Q. 960).

The effects of the Sacrament are also clear (Q. 969): 1st. To comfort us in the pains of sickness and to strengthen us against temptations; 2nd. To remit venial sins and to cleanse our soul from the remains of sin; 3rd. To restore us to health, when God sees fit.

The rubrics also implicitly reveal that the Sacrament may only be given to the living, not to those who have passed on to Judgment.

Let's read The Rite of Extreme Unction (1962)

3 comment(s):

del_button August 30, 2009 at 9:47 AM
Anonymous said...

I know this is probally the wrong place to ask this question, but if you are friends with someone who lives hedonistically, and you don't tell them about God, and they die suddenly, and possibly lose their soul, do you share responsibility in that because you didn't speak about God and you could have so many times?

del_button August 30, 2009 at 9:58 AM
Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Many thanks for this post.

del_button August 30, 2009 at 11:19 AM
Matthew said...

Failure to seek to correct those in sin and error is a sin of omission, something which we will be judged upon. It is not our fault if the one in error does not repent, but if we fail to attempt to steer them to the right path then we do commit a sin.

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