QUAERITUR: Who should receive Anointing of the Sick?

A reader asks:

I have a friend who is undergoing foot surgery soon. Although it is minor surgery, she will be under general anesthesia for over two hours. Her sister ended up in a coma for two weeks following a surgery so she wants to make sure she has her ducks in order confession, anointing of the sick etc. She went to our pastor and wanted to make an appointment for anointing and he said that it was not serious enough surgery and that cannon law dictates she can’t receive it. He commented that the faithful don’t know enough cannon law to understand it is an abuse of the sacrament to give it so freely. Is this right? And is there abuse in giving the sacrament freely to those who are sick?  My friend is very upset about it. Your advice would be very welcome . Thank you for your help father. My prayers are with you.

In my opinion the priest is both right and wrong.

He is right that the sacrament should not be given frivolously.  And it is very often given frivolously!

For example, I have seen regularly scheduled Masses at a parish for seniors wherein everyone, even the young people who brought the seniors, troops up to be anointed.  That is an abuse of the sacrament for more than one reason.

First, though some of those people were pretty old, no one was in obvious danger of death.

Second, this sacrament should if possible be received in the state of grace.  If a person is incapacitated, the sacrament of Anointing also forgives sins, but if a person is capable of confessing he should confess properly and receive absolution before being anointed.

Third, group anointing like that both reduce respect for the sacrament and nearly always insure that the sacrament is improperly administrated.

So, people who are sick with a cold probably shouldn’t be given this sacrament. The Second Vatican Council said that "’Extreme Unction," which may also and more properly be called ‘anointing of the sick,’ is not a sacrament for those only who are at 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 that person to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived." [SC 73]

The problem is that everyone is always in danger of death, which comes to us we know not when.

Let us remember that Anointing was and still is called Extreme Unction… the word "Extreme" does not mean that you are giving it on a skateboard or you are using huge amounts of oil. 

It means that a person is "in extremis", that is, "in danger of dying".

IMO, I think she could be anointed due to the reason that she is going to have general anesthesia.  For me that is a deciding factor.  General anesthesia is always risky business, no matter what the actual surgery is, minor or major, because it often involves inducing paralysis and it requires airway management.

I am cautious about whom I anoint and for what reason.  I insist on regular confession and absolution, preferably after Mass with Communion, and then in close proximity to the actual surgery which must be risky enough to warrant this "danger of death" sacrament. 

My view of general anesthesia, even as highly developed as it is now, is such that I see it as an great enough risk to warrant anointing.  Other priests may not agree, and they are free to.  I have made my decision after discussions with physicians, including an anesthesiologist, and after having witnessed surgeries from the observer’s position next to the place where the anesthetist or anesthesiologist works, and after my own experiences of anesthesia.

In this case, I think it would be okay to seek the sacrament from another priest if the pastor does not want to administer it.

At the same time, I think it is good that the priest is diligent about the care of the Sacrament of Anointing.  He shouldn’t be overly criticized.  He seems to be taking it seriously, which is positive.

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49 Responses to QUAERITUR: Who should receive Anointing of the Sick?

  1. Thomas says:

    “…the word ‘Extreme’ does not mean that you are giving it on a skateboard or you are using huge amounts of oil.”

    Line. Of. The. Week.

  2. Dominic says:

    Has the term “Extreme Unction” been dropped? In Sacrosanctum Concilium it is described as: “‘Extreme Unction’ which may also and more fittingly [melius] be called ‘Anointing of the Sick’….” (n. 73). The Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church use the term “Anointing of the Sick” and not “Extreme Unction.”

    Being “in danger of death from sickness or old age” are the main criteria for qualification of the sacrament. The Code of Canon Law also says: “If there is any doubt as to whether the sick person…is dangerously ill…this sacrament is to be administered.” (Can. 1005).

  3. Mark says:

    The case of parishes where the sacrament is giving more or less indiscriminately is one end of the spectrum, while the insistence that the sacrament can be administered only “in extremis” is at the other end.

    I’d be interested to hear Fr Z’s views on the practice of giving the sacrament to the long-term (but nor dangerously ill) sick on an individual basis within the context of a home-visit and in conjunction with confession and communion.

    Mark

  4. Mark: I think it would be appropriate not on a regular basis when all is stable but if they had a change of condition.

  5. Dominic: I don’t think there is anything wrong with calling the Sacrament “Extreme Unction”. The CCC does refer to it also as “Extreme Unction” and in the older Rituale Romanum now in use again it is, of course, referred to in the old sense “Extreme Unction”.

    It don’t think the term here is that important.  I am comfortable calling this sacrament Anointing of the Sick. 

    I, however, by far prefer to use the older Rituale Romanum for those who are in danger of death.

  6. cultus says:

    From the Praenotanda for the Anointing of the Sick:

    #8 Great care and concern should be taken to see that those of the faithful whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age receive this sacrament.

    #11 Elderly people may be anointing if they have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present.

    #53 Those who are judged to have a serious mental illness and who would be strengthened by the sacrament may be anointed.

    There is no mention here of imminent death.

  7. cultus: Nothing you transcribed indicates anything about frequency of administration of the sacrament.

  8. Aric says:

    In “The World, the Flesh and Father Smith” by Bruce Marshall (a Catholic who, I believe, was involved with preserving the traditional Mass in Scotland) the protagonist priest is ministering to a man facing imminent execution for having committed murder. Father Smith says that he can’t provide Extreme Unction because the man is in perfect health. That threw me for a loop when I first read it. What say you, Father?

  9. Dominic says:

    Fr Z: My comment was merely an inquiry as to whether the term “Extreme Unction” has been actually abandoned. I wasn’t expressing a view that it should (or should not) be. I think the term is used only once in the CCC, and this is within a quotation from a passage from the Council of Trent (CCC 1512).

  10. Pastor says:

    A recent request for sacramental anointing came from a devout Catholic who was about to donate a kidney to a sibling, a procedure that involved a general anaesthetic and carried genuine, but not huge, associated risks. We discussed for some time whether it was appropriate to anoint since the person in question was in good health (otherwise they would not be able to donate), and finally agreed that I would anoint just before the surgery (following confession and before communion, giving a minute fragment of a host); praying also for the sibling who was not a believing Christian. In such situations the final words of the 1983 Code of Canon Law may provide some comfort -’the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes’ ‘prae oculis habita salute animarum, quae in Ecclesia suprema semper lex esse debet’.

  11. Gary says:

    Aric raises a question which is typically found in a canon law class on the sacraments. Should the one to be executed receive the Anointing of the Sick? Under the current norms of the Church, it would seem that the correct answer is,”no.” Canon 998 states “The anointing of the sick, by which the Church commends the faithful who are dangerously ill to the suffering and glorified Lord in order that he relieve and save them, is conferred by anointing them with oil and pronouncing the words prescribed in the liturgical books.” The person who is in close proximity to death because of execution is not sick and the prayers and the anointing associated with the sacrament do not directly apply to them.
    This does not mean that there is to be no pastoral care for such a person. In fact, it is desirable for a priest to be present to hear the person’s confession, to grant absolution, to give communion perhaps as Viaticum, and to bring solace and comfort to the condemned. These rituals and actions correspond more accurately to the situation and are better suited to the need of the condemned person. In many ways, the situation of the condemned is more closely compared to that of the soldier headed into battle (think Gettysburg or Verdun where the lose of life was anticipated to be great) than to a patient in lying sick in the ICU ward of the hospital ward.

  12. Pastor: about to donate a kidney

    Sounds like serious surgery to me!|

    o{]:¬)

  13. Gary: I think I would be especially concerned that the people you described were confirmed and aware of what that sacrament is.

  14. Chris says:

    As a priest who regularly takes the emergency calls for our local hospital I still repeatedly encounter the situation of being called once someone is dead because “She’d have been too frightened if we’d got the priest”. Especially for folk whose contact with the church has been sporadic the language of ‘extreme unction’/ ‘the last rites’ can be a real obstacle to seeking the ministry of a priest, including anointing if appropriate, in good time.

  15. Seminarian says:

    I was assigned to a parish this summer where the pastor had a monthly “healing Mass”. This was simply a typical Mass, except that towards the end, all of the congregation would be made to process forward and be anointed. Of course, none of these people were sick; very few of them were even old! When I objected, it was explained to me that this sort of thing is “pastoral”.

    But as to the issue of administering the sacrament before surgery, I would agree that it is a fine thing to do. A friend of mine always anoints his parishioners before they undergo surgery. Apparently, he has known of a few people who haven’t survived the anesthesia, so he doesn’t take chances anymore. That seems perfectly in accord with the intention of the Church, in my humble opinion.

  16. CK says:

    So here is another question about any existing differentiation between a “blessing of the sick” and an “anointing”.

    Before surgery for cancer my friend found a hospital chaplain who blessed me while waiting for my surgery…there were others in that hall of cubicles also blessed. I firmly believe that no “apostolic blessing” was given at the time. Yet, I have had to insist that a priest, at the time of an anointing for a dying friend, included that “apostolic blessing”. There doesn’t seem to be an awareness of that special forgiveness and the graces given through that blessing by some priests or families.

    Now then, should all “blessings of the sick” include that “apostolic blessing”? And if there is really no difference between the two, besides the terms used, I would assume that the “apostolic blessing” should also be included in all blessings of the sick. Am I wrong? I mean isn’t it a difference of receiving a plenary indulgence at the end of life or not receiving it?

  17. The sacrament of anointing should be understood as for “serious” or “grave” situations, involving danger or peril; at the same time, after being diligent, one should err on administering the sacrament. I totally agree with Fr. Z about the importance of associating a good confession and reception of holy communion.

    Alas, increasingly it is hard if not impossible to administer the Eucharist to many of the sick, because of feeding tubes or because they cannot receive anything orally. Now, in fact, one can administer a tiny fragment of the host to someone who cannot normally swallow, followed by a sip of water; or there is the option of bringing the person the Precious Blood, although this has to be planned of course. It makes me sad to think of people who don’t receive the Eucharist in their last days because people say, “oh, he can’t swallow” and they don’t call the priest.

  18. er…I meant, one should err in the direction of administering the sacrament, as opposed to not doing so; I didn’t mean one should err in the act of doing so!

  19. Gary says:

    Fr. Z: Thanks for your clarification.

    I did fail to mention the importance of the sacrament of Confirmation and the responsibility for any and all presbyters to administer the sacrament of Confirmation in danger of death to those Catholics who have not already received it. Ed Peters has a wonderful article on his website concerning the pastoral care of infants in danger of death. He highlights that rather than the Anointing of the Sick which is reserved to those who have attained the use of reason, the proper sacrament to be administered to the gravely ill infant is the sacrament of Confirmation, thus providing the seal of the Holy Spirit on the child’s life and his healing presence in the child’s time of need. We do sometimes forget the power and importance of Confirmation in our spiritual lives.

    That article can be found at: http://www.canonlaw.info/a_childrenindanger.htm

  20. Ubi Caritas says:

    Rumours abound that Rome has recently put pressure on Mgr. Perrier, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes to rein in the use of the sacrament of the sick among Lourdes pilgrims. Having been to Lourdes, I can kinda see where this is coming from. The sacrament is sometimes used rather frivolously in Lourdes, but normally it’s an essential – and very wonderful – part of the Lourdes encounter for so many.

  21. Aric says:

    Gary,

    Thank you for the explanation, and the citation of a source. It helps put context to what was (necessarily, in a novel) an unsourced assertion.

    Aric

  22. Mary Bruno says:

    Thank you Father Z for the explanation. I know of one person who did not survive a routine surgery due to anesthesia. I hope more priests are understanding of the need before such surgeries.

    Fr. Fox, I have worked in many nursing homes and at least in this area I see those who are on special diets or tube feeds receive very small pieces of the Eucharist. I’m glad that in some places they allow this.

    An FYI for anyone who has a loved one on a special diet or is not allowed any food by mouth. If you discuss it with their doctor or the person who evaluates their ability to swallow safely you might be able to sign a waiver or get a doctor’s order to allow food under special circumstances. If there’s a loved one who can’t receive the Eucharist and would like to receive there just might be a way.

  23. Bruce T. says:

    I’m confused about your statement: “This sacrament should if possible be received in the state of grace.”
    Is this sacrament effective if received while in the state of mortal sin?
    Since only a priest or bishop can administer the sacrament, what would prevent the sacrament of penance before hand? Even if a Catholic is unconscious, shouldn’t a priest, taking the safer course, absolve and presume they would want an absolution before administering the anointing. After all, strictly speaking, it would seem penance is more desirable than anointing.

  24. EricG says:

    It might interest you all to know that in the Byzantine Catholic Churches (and their Orthodox counterparts), the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is administered to EVERY congregant, physically sick or not, at the Liturgy on Wednesday of Holy Week.

    The logic is that the Sacrament of Anointing can be given to those who are spiritually sick, as well as physically ill.

    Of course, even in the Byzantine Churches this is a rather unique exception, but it goes to show that not every thing we Latins consider to be clear-cut sacramental theology is so absolute.

  25. CK says:

    From CCC:

    II. WHO RECEIVES AND WHO ADMINISTERS THIS SACRAMENT?

    In case of grave illness . . .

    1514 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.”130

    1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.

    1517 Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration,132 whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord’s Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ’s Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the “viaticum” for “passing over” to eternal life.

    No mention there of the Apostolic Pardon and no one came to my rescue in my former inquiry re: it. Does that mean that people here too do not know about the “Apostolic Pardon” and what it does and how often it may be left out? Here is some mention of it as well:

    And souls who need cleansing at the time of death can receive a beautiful gift from the Lord given to the apostles. It is called the Apostolic Pardon. Any priest can bestow it at the time of death. It is separate from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Apostolic Pardon removes all purgatory punishment and the soul goes directly to Heaven. Here is the formula which the priest says:

    By the authority of the Apostolic See I hereby grant you full pardon and remission of all your sins: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    Many priests do not give the Apostolic Pardon because they do not know about it. So the soul appears at death before God with the crust still clinging to them and not removed by the Apostolic Pardon.

  26. prof. basto says:

    Forgive me, Father, this is slightly off-topic, but is related to the theme of your posting somewhat.

    I’m scheduled to undergo knee surgery under general anesthesia next week (Tuesday, October 7th). Please pray for me.

    I will certainly try to receive the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick next weeked.

    Thanks in advance.

  27. Joshua says:

    I was under the impression that one actually had to be in the danger of death to receive. Hence a soldier about to enter a mine-field could not receive it nor could I even if I knew I was going to die soon from an external cause (nuclear explosion about to happen), but the soldier could having been seriously wounded or I coud after having suffered effects of radiation. Excuse the longer quotation it is from Fr. Jones´ Moral Theology, after stating that it requires the recipient to be in danger of death from sickness or old age he states:

    The illness must be so serious that death may reasonably be feared.

    If one is in danger of death but is not ill, he may, indeed, receive viaticum; but may not be anointed, e.g., before an execution or a battle; before an operation, unless death already threatens as a consequence of illness- The mortally wounded, the poisoned, women before a dangerous parturition and also those who suffer from the weakness of old age may be anointed. …Death need not be imminent…

    Other than that he wholly agrees. Frankly I think the original priest was right.

  28. A Random Friar says:

    If we have soldiers running out into minefields or in front of a likely chance of death, confession is the suitable course of action. And if there’s a large number of folks running into deadly harm’s way, then by all means general absolution, if individual confessions cannot be done reasonably, with the standard caveat about confessing if they get a next chance.

  29. Bruce T: I’m confused about your statement: “This sacrament should if possible be received in the state of grace.”
    Is this sacrament effective if received while in the state of mortal sin?

    That is tricky. If a person is incapacitated, then the sacrament can forgive sins. However, it is what some have in the past called a “sacrament of the living”, that is, it is effective in those who are “alive” in the state of grace, rather than “dead” in the state of sin. Those who receive these “sacraments of the living” in the dead state of mortal sin do not receive the graces of those sacraments until they are in the state of grace again. They can receive the effects, such as conformation of the soul in Holy Orders or valid marriage or confirmation, but not all the other graces that come with the sacraments received in the state of grace.

    Since only a priest or bishop can administer the sacrament, what would prevent the sacrament of penance before hand? Even if a Catholic is unconscious, shouldn’t a priest, taking the safer course, absolve and presume they would want an absolution before administering the anointing. After all, strictly speaking, it would seem penance is more desirable than anointing.

    There are those situations in which you don’t have a lot of time. Yes, a priest could give an incapacitated person a general absolution in that moment and then anoint him.

  30. Sue Sims says:

    Seminarian: I was once at a ‘Day of Recollection’ organised by our parish for those of us who ran the Children’s Liturgy of the Word. The sessions were run by one of the diocesan catechists who, at the end of the day, had us all anointing each other for healing. You won’t be surprised to hear that we all (according to her) needed healing because we didn’t love ourselves enough, or recognise our own giftedness (that’s verbatim).

    I could really have done with real healing for the massive headache the day gave me.

  31. Trey says:

    I have been to a parish where the “Annointing of the Sick” is done once a week, and almost everyone goes up to be annointed, just as they do at communion…

    I thought it was an odd addition to the Mass, but I did not know it was an abuse.

    Should this be done DURING the Mass???

  32. Michael Garner says:

    From Catholic Encyclopedia:

    (4) Nor will danger, or even certainty, of death from any other cause than sickness qualify a person for extreme unction. Hence criminals or martyrs about to suffer death and other similarly circumstanced may not be validly anointed unless they should happen to be seriously ill. But illness caused by violence, as by a dangerous or fatal wound, is sufficient; and old age itself without any specific disease is held by all Western theologians to qualify for extreme unction, i.e. when senile decay has advanced so far that death already seems probable. In cases of lingering diseases, like phthisis or cancer, once the danger has become really serious, extreme unction may be validly administered even though in all human probability the patient will live for a considerable time, say several months; and the lawfulness of administering it in such cases is to be decided by the rules of pastoral theology. If in the opinion of doctors the sickness will certainly be cured, and all probable danger of death removed by a surgical operation, theologians are not agreed whether the person who consents to undergo the operation ceases thereby to be a valid subject for the sacrament. Kern holds that he does (op. cit., p. 299), but his argument is by no means convincing.

    From the Catechism of the Council of Trent:

    –The Danger Must Arise From Sickness

    Extreme Unction, then, can be administered to no one who is not dangerously sick; not even to those who are in danger of death, as when they undertake a perilous voyage, or enter into battle with the sure prospect of death, or have been condemned to death and are on the way to execution.–

    It would seem from this that just because there is a risk of that person dying during
    the surgery (complications from general anesthesia) that that is not sufficient cause
    to annoint. The person must be dangerously sick in the first place to receive the annointing.

  33. Maureen says:

    Father, thank you very much for running this discussion. My parish has been talking about holding a “healing Mass”, and has long done Anointing of the Sick once a month, after Mass. In truth, we do have a LOT of elderly folks here who probably are in constant danger of death, they are so frail.

    But when I asked about what guidelines would be provided at the “Healing Mass” for who should come forward for anointing, the lady proposing it got very angry when I asked this. I thought I was pointing out pretty reasonably that you’d want to warn folks that this wasn’t something for colds or sprained ankles, because people do stuff like that all the time. And sure enough, this thread is telling me that people do indeed come up with such “grave illness”.

    Personally, I don’t think I’d want to stand in the way of people getting anointed before general anesthesia, and probably there are plenty of mental illnesses that put someone “in danger of death” or close enough. Ditto the super-frail.

    But maybe there needs to be more separation of the Sacrament and general prayers for healing?

    I mean, it’s not wrong for people to desire the prayers of the Church and healing from Christ. We have St. Blaise’s Day and the Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis’ Day. Maybe it would be pastoral to have health blessing days on the feasts of saints known as healers, or something like that…. Surely there’s something for that in the ol’ Book o’ Blessings?

  34. don’t have various versions of the code to hand but if memory serves me
    correctly the old code used a term like “in danger of death” while the
    current code merely says “in danger”. Clearly the drafters wanted to
    weaken the wording a little, but not too much. Under the old code, a
    prison chaplain could not anoint someone about to be executed. Indeed,
    the black bag which went over the head of person to be hanged had a small
    hole on the forehead to allow the priest to anoint the person once they
    had dropped.

    I think lots of parishes introduced group annointings in lieu of confession.

  35. bobd says:

    Father, you mentioned the “sacraments of the living”. Now of these 5 Holy Orders is one. Does that mean if a man is not in a state of grace at the time of his ordination that he is not a priest? That the sacrament “did not take”? I’m thinking of non repentent homosexuals or paedophiles especially. Could you explain?

  36. Michael Garner: The Second Vatican Council developed somewhat our understanding of the sacrament and who can receive it. As I quoted above:

    “’Extreme Unction,” which may also and more properly be called ‘anointing of the sick,’ is not a sacrament for those only who are at 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 that person to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.” [SC 73]

    But what Trent said still has value for us today.  I try to read Vatican II together with Trent on this issue. 

  37. bobd: No it doesn’t mean that they are not validly ordained priests. It means that in their own spiritual life they do not enjoy the accompanying graces that come from their ordained state. We have to keep in mind some distinctions about sacraments that confer a state on us, such as confirmation, holy orders, marriage. You can validly receive a sacrament. But the sacraments also give you graces to live your state in life.

  38. M says:

    Here is an example of abuse of the Sacrament (or so I think).

    A recent church bulletin ad for a Mass of the Anointing of the Sick included these situations as circumstances in which one could receive such a Sacrament in addition to physical illness, accident or sudden trauma, impending surgery and advanced age: “Critical decisions: You may be faced with choices affecting your job, your marriage, or your future that seem overwhelming. Reconciliation: You have just experienced a breakthrough in restoring a relationship that when broken, caused you much anguish and suffering. Emotional pain: You recall memories that arouse fear and guilt upon the loss of someone especially close to you. Spiritual Renewal: You have experienced the closeness of God in a new way and found joy in renewing relationships with Christian brothers and sisters from whom you were estranged. In any of these experiences, the Sacrament of the Sick can bring healing, forgiveness, peace, a profound sense of God’s enabling presence.”

    No wonder, then, if almost everybody were to go up to receive the Sacrament. The pastor is the main celebrant. Where can I send a copy of this bulletin to bring it to the attention of somebody in the Diocesis who could help change what I believe is an abuse of the Sacrament?

  39. Joshua says:

    Father, with all due respect I don´t think Vatican II said anting at all that was new here. Indeed, it merely repeats exactly what Trent taught. Danger of death is not moment of death. That is true in St. Thomas, in the Catholic Encyclopeia, and in the Jone´s Moral theology, all before Vatican II.

    So I think we have to say that the anointing cannot be given before a surgery merely because of the danger od anæsthesia, since it is a future not present threat. It must be sickness or old age that presents a danger of death. A knee injury is not mortal.

  40. Geoffrey says:

    I just received news yesterday of a sudden death of a parishioner that occured and immediately thought back to this excellent post. A middle-aged woman recently died due to complications with anesthesia during a very minor surgery.

    So I think it makes complete sense to request the Anointing before any kind of anesthesia. I am due for wisdom teeth extraction soon and the anesthesia part of the whole thing unsettles me greatly.

  41. Joshua says:

    Geoffrey, a man about to be executed cannot receive anointing, though he may receive the Viaticum and other last rites. So it does not make sense. The danger must be internal, due to old age, sickness or mortal wound. That has constantly been the teaching of the Church and Vatican II said no different. It is important to remember that it is a sacrament of healing as well. There is not a danger of death to be healed prior to anaesthesia by itself, or prior to an atom bomb dropping. I mean if anointing could be given prior to surgery merely due to a future danger, then it should be given to soldiers off to battle, before executions, etc. But it isn´t

  42. bobd says:

    By the way, Father, good luck to your Twinkies tonight. Then you can give the Last Rites to the White Sox. If that happens I’ll see your Twins play my Rays.

  43. G says:

    This entire thread was very enlightening, or rather interesting, because I’m not enlightened, I’m just confused.
    I am a middle-aged person, in very good health and I have received the Sacrament three times, I begin to feel unworthily, or at least inappropriately.
    One time was just this past weekend.
    The first time I was about to undergo general anesthesia, and I was absolutely terrified, but I was actually in perfect health, it was elective. (I was donating an organ.)
    It never occurred to me that I should not ask for the sacrament.
    But I don’t see how I was in any different position than a healthy person about to be executed.
    The second and 3rd times, I was talked into it, but they didn’t have to try very hard. I was suffering from debilitating, but not even remotely life-threatening, chronic problems, which do threaten my livelihood.
    So now I’m wondering, is this something I should tell my confessor? (obviously not one at the parish where I was anointed.)
    We have a parish Mass once a year where the sacrament is administered and everyone is urged to take advantage of it.

  44. bobd says:

    To G and others who are confused. I was listening to Father Pacwa’s homily today on Ewtn. Today being the feast of St. Jerome. And he mentioned that when St. Jerome lived (the 300′s) that it was then the understanding that people only went to confession once in a lifetime. So with that thinking they delayed Baptism until adulthood. I guess the thinking was “what if I commit a mortal sin? what then?” So that was the thinking of the Church then. Now today the idea of confession has been Liberalized. Recently the Holy Father answered some pastoral questions from priests while on vacation in N. Italy. One of the questions was about 1st communion. I forget the exact question. Anyway the Holy Father said that when he was younger he was more strict but now he is more liberal. I think as Catholics lay people we should act like little chicks in the nest who keep chirping for more food from their mother. We should do the same. Ask for all the graces you can. Our dear Lord will dispense them in whatever way, shape or form he desires.

  45. joshua says:

    It is a bad myth that they only Confessed once. True certain serious crimes were limited, but we need to distinguish the old canonical penalties from the Sacrament itself. The Sacrament was repeatable. Tertullian, for instance, mentions it being repeatable though at the same time pleading that it is best not to rely on the hope of future pardon, lest one not escape sin.

    Statements that seem contrary are merely what St. Alphonse said about God forgiving only so many times; in other words they speak not of the sacrament itself not being offered, but God eventually abandoning one to his sins.

  46. M says:

    I posted a comment yesterday about a church bulletin announcement that included a wide range of circumstances for receiving the Anointing of the Sick. I talked to the pastor about it today and he said that, although he does not turn anybody away, he anoints the sick, not those who are well (who don’t go up to get anointed at the Mass). He said he included the announcement because it came from the Diocesis, without specifying where.

    Thank you, Father, for your informative website. Please keep us all in your prayers.

  47. G says:

    M, would you be comfortable saying what diocese that is?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  48. G says:

    Sorry, the reason I asked is that the only similar description of for whom the sacrament might be appropriate was on a website belong to the Church of the Brethren.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  49. Charles says:

    The Sacrament can only be given when the individual is in danger of death from sickness – not simply danger of death from any cause. Hence it is not and cannot be given to soldiers about to go into battle or to a criminal about to be executed.