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

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

This Sacrament, most often the very last Sacrament a person receives before death, is intended to bring spiritual and sometimes physical help to a dying person. Yet, it is very often misunderstood.  Extreme Unction, also called Last Rites or in modern times “Anointing of the Sick,” is a Sacrament which was instituted by Christ Himself and which confers actual graces.  It is not a blessing, as some have erroneously believed. It is as real a Sacrament as Baptism, Confession, or the Holy Eucharist. 
The Rite of Extreme Unction

How is Extreme Unction performed? 

While the priest anoints the forehead of the sick person, he says the prayers prescribed in the Roman Rite. Let's read The Rite of Extreme Unction (1962)

Who May Receive the Sacrament?

For reception of the Sacrament, a person must be a baptized Catholic who has reached the age of reasoning. It should also only be given to a person is "in extremis" (i.e. in imminent danger of dying) and not simply one who is elderly or ill with a non life-threatening disease. This is an error that has really affected the modern reception of this Sacrament which now often goes by the term “Anointing of the Sick,” which gives the false view that any illness warrants this 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). For that reason, Protestants may not receive the Sacrament.

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. Archbishop Lefebvre has said: "It is common for sick people to experience a real renewal of health after the sacrament of Extreme Unction. Many of those who have received it are still in good health today. But even if that state does not last, it is a way for God to allow a person who is dying truly to offer up his life, courageously and fully conscious."

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

Modern Errors on Extreme Unction

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 validly 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 baptized 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.

And for those of us who continue to fight the good fight as members of the Church Militant on earth, let us make it clear to our family that we wish to receive the traditional form of Extreme Unction should we fall into sudden illness or injury.  

By reading the Rite of Extreme Unction, we should be inspired to have our own eventual death before our eyes. And when we die, will we be in God’s grace or lost for all eternity?

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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