The celebration of this sacrament is a continuation of Jesus' compassion for the sick, who himself so identified with the sufferings of the sick that he made their suffering his own. This sacrament of the anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ in the Gospel of Mark (6:13) when his disciples anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Catholics recognize the ritual of this sacrament in the Letter of James that reads, "Is there any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the church and let them pray over him, anointing 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; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (Jas 5:14-15).
According to the Second Vatican Council, the sacrament of the anointing of the sick is not just for those who are at the point of death. However, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him or her to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.
The effects of the anointing of the sick:
- Unites the suffering of the sick person with the sufferings of Christ.
- Strengthens the sick person with courage and peace to endure whatever sufferings are caused by disease or old age.
- Forgives all sins for which the sick person has true sorrow, but was unable to confess.
- Sometimes restores health, if it is appropriate, for the salvation of the sick person.
- Prepares the sick person for the transition to eternal life.
Persons who may benefit from this sacrament include:
- Those whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or advanced age.
- Those who are about to undergo surgery because of a serious illness.
- Those who are elderly and weakened by age, even if there is no serious illness.
- Sick children who are mature enough to be comforted by this sacrament.