Circle of Prayer - The Sacrament of the Sick
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Extreme Unction, now called the Sacrament of the Sick, is a sacrament by which, through the prayers of a priest and the anointing with olive oil (blessed by the bishop), a person who is in danger of death from sickness is given health of the soul and sometimes also of the body. Extreme Unction gives strength to the soul, takes away venial sin and temporal punishment, remits mortal sin (if present), and sometimes gives heRlth to the body. The olive oil which is used is blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday before the Pttter Nosier or the Mass.

The priest confers this sacrament by making a small sign of the cross with his thumb, dipped in the oil, on the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, and sometimes the feet of the person who is sick. If the danger of death were immediate, one anointing on the forehead would suffice. While making these anointings the priest says: .'Through this holy anointing, and His most tender mercy, may the Lord forgive you whatever sins you have committed by the sins of sight (hearing, smell, taste and speech, touch, and steps). Amen." 

The only persons who can receive this sacrament are those who are baptized, have reached the age of reason, and who are in danger of death from sickness, accident, or old age. However, one need not be actuany dying in order to receive Extreme Unction. Normally, one who is to be anointed should be informed that he is in danger of death. For it is false mercy to hide from a sick man the fact that he is soon to face God, his judge. 

The following extracts are taken from the Catholic Church Code of Canon Law


The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends to the suffering and glorified Lord the faithful who are dangerously ill so that he may support and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books. 


The oil to be used in the anointing of the sick can be blessed not only by a Bishop but also by: 

  • those who are in law equivalent to the diocesan Bishop;
  • in a case of necessity, any priest but only in the actual celebration of the sacrament. 
The anointings are to be carried out accurately, with the words and in the order and manner prescribed in the liturgical books. In a case of necessity, however, a single anointing on the forehead, or even on another part of the body, is sufficient while the full formula is recited. 

The minister is to anoint with his own hand, unless a grave reason indicates the use of an instrument. 

Pastors of souls and those who are close to the sick are to ensure that the sick are helped by this sacrament in good time. 

The communal celebration of anointing of the sick, for a number of the sick together, who have been appropriately prepared and are rightly disposed, may be held in accordance with the regulations of the diocesan Bishop. 


Every priest, but only a priest, can validly administer the anointing of the sick. 

All priests to whom has been committed the care of souls, have the obligation and the right to administer the anointing of the sick to those of the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care. For a reasonable cause, any other priest may administer this sacrament if he has the consent, at least presumed, of the aforementioned priest. 

Any priest may carry the holy oil with him, so that in a case of necessity he can administer the sacrament of anointing of the sick. 


The anointing of the sick can be administered to any member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger of death by reason of illness or old age. 

This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes seriously ill or if, in the same illness, the danger becomes more serious. 

If there is any doubt as to whether the sick person has reached the age of reason, or is dangerously ill, or is dead, this sacrament is to be administered. 

This sacrament is to be administered to the sick who, when they were in possession of their faculties, at least implicitly asked for it. 

The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who obstinately persist in a manifestly grave sin. 

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