The Gospel this week again records the healing of the sick. In this case the most horrible disease known to the ancient world, leprosy. In this column last week I spoke about the continuation of the healing ministry of Jesus present in the Church today, especially through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. I would like to review a few things about that sacrament in this column.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that this sacrament “was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament” and “is intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness.” (#1511) “The Anointing of the Sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.” (#1514) The oil used for the sacrament is blessed by the Bishop (at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week, along with all the oils used for the other sacraments). In the rite the priest prays over the sick person and anoints him or her on the forehead and on the palms of the hands. If possible, it is appropriate to receive the Sacrament of Penance beforehand. Though the Anointing of the Sick may be celebrated anytime in emergency, it is also proper, if it is possible to do so, to arrange its celebration (e.g., before surgery) for a time when family members can be present. The Church also recommends communal celebrations of the sacrament. (This is typically done periodically in nursing homes or care centers.) To learn more about this sacrament, I recommend reading paragraphs #1499 - 1532 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
We begin our Lenten journey this coming Ash Wednesday. Let’s have a Holy Lent!
May God bless you!