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Traditionally referred to as Extreme Unction or Last Rites, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was previously most commonly administered to the dying, for the remission of sins and the provision of spiritual strength and health. In modern times, however, its use has been expanded to all who are gravely ill or are about to undergo a serious operation, and the Church stresses a secondary effect of the sacrament: to help a person recover his health. Like Confession and Holy Communion, to which it is closely linked, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick can be repeated as often as is necessary.
The modern celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick recalls the early Christian use, going back to biblical times. When Christ sent His disciples out to preach, "they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:13). James 5:14-15 ties physical healing to the forgiveness of sins:
Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him
Following this biblical understanding, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that:
The Anointing of the Sick "is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived."
When in doubt, priests should err on the side of caution and provide the sacrament to the faithful who request I
The sacrament is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil – pressed from olives or from other plants – say, only once: 'through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.'
Only priests can be ministers of this sacrament, but it is a communal celebration that can take place in a family come, hospital or church, for a single person or a whole group of sick persons. It may be that Holy Communion at the same time is offered at the same time, or it may be given on it's own, depending on the circumstances and the wish of the person receiving the sacrament. If the recipient is not able to receive the Sacrament of Confession, Anointing also provides forgiveness of sins. And, if it will aid in the salvation of his soul, Anointing may restore the recipient's health.
There are a number of hospitals in the Diocese of Hallam and each hospital is served by a Catholic Chaplain, supported by local priests who attend hospital on an 'on-call' basis. If you want to talk to someone about this sacrament, please speak to Fr Shaun in the first place who will explain how it might work in individual cases.
Catechism of the Catholic Church