Anointing of the Sick Q & A

anointing_vesselsNeed a refresher on Anointing?  Newly ordained Deacon David Peverley has some tips and reminders for those that visit the sick and dying.

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Need a refresher on Anointing?  Newly ordained Deacon David Peverley has some tips and reminders for those that visit the sick and dying.

anointing_vesselsWhat is Anointing of the Sick?

Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ. Previously it was known as Last Rites, but this is a misnomer. When death is imminent, anointing is appropriate, but it should also be received in the case of a serious illness, an upcoming surgery or when enduring the frailties of old age. Anointing should be received sooner rather than later.

What Does the Rite Consist Of?

Only a priest or bishop may administer the rite. The initial elements of the rite consist of various prayers and a reading from the Gospel. The priest will then lay his hands on the head of the recipient invoking the Holy Spirit. The forehead and hands are anointed with oil with the words, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. –Amen. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” Final prayers, including the Lord’s prayer, are then said.

What Does Anointing Do?

Anointing provides God’s grace which can help us in many ways. Anointing helps strengthen us and gives us peace and courage. It is directed to a healing of the soul and, if it be the will of God, healing of body as well. Anointing gives us grace so that we may have a closer union with Christ in his saving mission.  As a result of Anointing, sins are forgiven. This is especially important when a person is unconscious and unable to go to Confession. Anointing contributes to the overall sanctification of the Church especially in regards to those who suffer. Finally, Anointing helps prepare us for the final journey to our heavenly home should this be the case.

How Often Should I Receive Anointing?

Generally, Anointing should be received once for a given serious illness or surgery. It may be received again if the illness takes a turn for the worse or if there is a new illness or surgery. It may also be received for the same illness if the person has recovered and then falls seriously ill again. In the case of old age, Anointing may be received when the person has become noticeably weakened. However, receiving the sacrament repeatedly should be avoided. The power of grace is not diminished over time.

Should I Receive Other Sacraments with Anointing?

Yes. If a person is conscious, they should receive Confession before anointing. If a person is not conscious, then the Anointing will forgive sins. If a person is close to death, they should also receive Viaticum which is a last receipt of the Eucharist before death. If consciousness is regained, then going to Confession is encouraged.

Can a Person Who has Died be Anointed?

Anointing, like all the sacraments, is for those whose soul is still on this earth. After death, the priest or deacon may lead the family in a number of beautiful and powerful prayers.

What is My Role in Anointing?

As with all sacraments, the power of grace lies in our own belief and participation. It also asks us to surrender our own desire for a given outcome and give our life or the life of a loved one over to the great glory of God and his plan for all of us. It asks us to trust Jesus Christ.

When Should I Arrange for Anointing?

A call to your parish is the proper way to arrange for Anointing. In almost all cases, this should be requested as soon as possible. Here are some examples:

  • Surgery – Don’t wait until you go to the hospital. Make an appointment at the Church ahead of time.
  • Entering Hospice – Contact the parish as soon as possible when in a hospice situation either at a facility or at home.
  • Serious Illness – As soon as the illness becomes serious, contact the parish even if you are still at home.
  • Emergency – Upon an emergency when death is possible, contact the parish.


Almighty God, in his great glory and in union with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, pours out his loving graces upon us, especially in times of illness, so that we may join him in the fullness of holiness and happiness. “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved.”  (Rm 8:22-24)

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