The Letter of James gives the basis for the sacrament of the anointing of the sick:
“If anyone among you is sick he should summons the presbyters of the church and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed any sins he will be forgiven” (James 5: 13-15).
Anointing with oil is older than the sacrament because it has healing qualities and has been used by athletes and by others to promote good health. Jesus’ disciples anointed people (Mk. 6:13) and Jesus himself was anointed (Mk.14:8). All baptized have been anointed at Baptism and again at Confirmation. Centuries later the church would recognize the above actions in James as one of the seven sacraments of our church.
The sacrament is still for those who are seriously ill but the church always has a hope that they be restored to health. The sacrament is also a big help for those who are facing surgery and who are worried about it because it gives them peace and comfort.
Here, at St. Francis, we get many calls for “the last rites.” Now that you know a little more about the sacrament you will call us when your loved one is sick, and conscious, and able to benefit from this sacrament that brings the healing touch of Jesus Christ to your loved one. You will also call us if they are close to death and we will respond.
We also celebrate the communal sacrament of the anointing of the sick once every two months, on Saturday, during the morning 8:30 AM Mass.
This will not be the last we hear of ” the last rites” but now we have a more current language to use for our ministry to the sick and dying.