The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick will be available after every Mass beginning after Labor Day. Wow! That sounds great, does it not? After every Mass! That sounds like a wonderful opportunity… until I realize that I am not really sure what it all means.

Many of us think that the sacrament having to do with illness is “Last Rites.” Why would the parish be offering this sacrament after every Mass if it was just for those very near death? Are there really that many people in the parish who need “Last Rites?” I do not think so! Hm. Perhaps this is not such a great thing!

Let’s find out more about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to gain an understanding about what it is…


  • Pastoral Care of the Sick is the heading under which we find the Rites of Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum.
  • If we limit our thinking of the Anointing of the Sick as a sacrament only for those near death we would be missing out on the opportunity for God to heal and help us at times when we might need Him the most – when we are having surgery, dealing with a physical, mental, emotional or even spiritual affliction. It is during these difficult times that we need the Holy Spirit’s gifts of strength, faith, peace and courage. It is during these times, as well, that we should seek to receive this God given Sacrament.
  • In the Catechism we read this description of the Anointing of the Sick: “The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration whether it takes place in a family home, a hospital or church, for a single person or a whole group of sick persons.” The sick person is called to unite his or her pain and suffering with the pain and suffering that Christ endured and to then be a powerful sign to the Church and to the world, as “by their witness the sick show that our mortal life must be redeemed through the mystery of Christ‘s death and resurrection.”
  • To expand this point about those who are ill being a powerful sign to the community, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of life and hope with generous dedication… In a world afflicted by strife and suffering, the sick can speak powerfully to us about the power of friendship with Christ – his comfort, strength, and support. “
  • Viaticum is ‘Bread for the Journey.’ Here a person receives the Body of Christ for the last time. This “Eucharist for the passage from death to eternal life” is the proper sacrament for the dying Christian. (Note that Viaticum is not the same as Anointing of the Sick)
  • When a person is nearing death the “Last Rites” would refer to reconciliation, possibly anointing, and viaticum. The Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a Sacrament for those only who are at the point of death.” It is a Sacrament of healing and of hope.

So… the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is for…

  • someone who is impaired by sickness or old age
  • a person facing surgery
  • an elderly person when notably frail or weakened and no serious illness is evident
  • one who is suffering from psychological illness
  • a child who has reached the use of reason (usually around six or seven years old) and is very ill

If you are ever wondering whether your situation warrants asking for the Anointing of the Sick, you may wish to approach the priest to ask. The catechism tells us that “a careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient,” but you are encouraged to ask rather than bypass an opportunity for healing prayer.

And remember that the sacrament may be repeated if the sick person recovers after being anointed and, then, falls ill again, or if during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious.

For celebrations of the Sacrament of the Sick in emergency situations only which require the presence of a priest, please call 410.489.4211.

The names of sick parishioners may be added to Prayer List by emailing our Prayer Network Ministry at Parish Secretary

If you or a member of your family is home-bound or in a nursing home nearby and desires communion, a pastoral visit or Sacrament of the Sick, please contact Ted Burkhardt at 240-437-3672