We have seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation (Penance), Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. Each of these sacraments was reexamined during the Second Vatican Council to look at the history of each sacrament and the current practice.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick underwent a major revision from this. Even its common name changed from Extreme Unction (Last Rites) to the Anointing of the Sick. Using oils for the sick is a biblical principle found in the Letter of James:
Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15).
It simply refers to the sick. Yet, over the years, this sacrament developed to being received only at the point of death. That’s why it became known as Last Rights or Extreme Unction. The confusion arose in the early church because, as this is a sacrament, one had to be in a state of grace to receive it. The rules for the Rite of Penance (Confession) were very strict. Often, people waited until they were on their deathbed to go to Confession. Thus, they were not in a state of grace and could not receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
From this, it became the common understanding that anointing of the sick was only for people at the point of death. Only with the Second Vatican Council did the church understand the sacrament is meant for anyone with a serious illness.
So, if you or your loved one have any serious illness, the time to ask for the Anointing of the Sick is now. If the illness progresses (or a new illness develops) over a long period of time, you or your loved one can be anointed again.
While Jesus (and the Apostles) performed miraculous healings, the Anointing of the Sick should not be seen as simply asking for physical healing. When we are sick, we may suffer physically and spiritually. The act of anointing with oil is a sign of strengthening. In this understanding, the Anointing of the Sick – while our prayers may include asking for a miracle – is about strengthening and knowing that God is with us granting us peace, love, and grace.
So, if you or your loved face a serious illness, please call our parish office at 607-273-6121, and Father Chumo would be happy to celebrate this Sacrament with you.