Sick-Call Sets and You

From a reader…

Hello Father,

Old time follower here (chat room and bird feeders at Sabine Farm). Thought you might find this picture interesting. I’m a cradle Catholic in my 70s and I just unpacked these from old family boxes. I remember these hanging on the walls in my relatives homes when I was little.  Of course we don’t have Extreme Unction anymore which really confuses me.  Oh well!

Thank you for your work all these years.

Firstly, you are welcome.

What you have found, dear reader, is a commonly known as a “Sick Call” Set.   These wall Crosses had inner compartments in which you would have candles and so forth so that you would be ready for when the priest arrived, bringing the Blessed Sacrament.   You see the holes into which you would put the candles.

When deployed…


And there were/are more elaborate sets, too.

The idea was that everything should be prepared for the coming of the KING into the house!

You mention that there is no more “Extreme Unction”.  On the contrary.   This is another name for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.   “Extreme” applies especially to those who are “in extremis”, that is, the last moments of their lives.   The sacrament can be administered to those who are not necessarily in danger of immediate death, but there has to be some urgency and possibility of death due to interior causes such as sickness (not external threats such as battle) looming for the sacrament properly to be administered.

So, be assured that the Church does have “Extreme Unction” now, though it is usually called by another name.

I think every home should have a sick call set.  For example US HERE – UK HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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11 Responses to Sick-Call Sets and You

  1. Kent Wendler says:

    I ask for this sacrament before I have any medical procedure which requires general anesthesia. My understanding is that the benefit is not time dependent, that it is not necessary to repeat it even if the procedure is postponed for a period, like what happened my last time.

    Father, I noticed this on eBay, and I thought it might interest you and other priests who read this:

    Antique Oak Box Sick Call Sacramental Prayer Religious Catholic Priest Last Rite

    In the description it says this was recovered from the estate of a priest.

  2. ArthurH says:

    We have “Anointing of the sick” every first Tuesday at both morning and evening Masses.

    As an extreme outlier survivor of a bone marrow cancer, I am well past my expected sell-by date: Now 23 years into a median prognosis (1996) of 2-5 years, 16 years of that in weekly treatment that works only in 10% of similar patients, and, usually, only for a few years when it does.

    I cannot be stronger or clearer in my message to all that I attribute my survival to my faith and trust, to this sacrament initiated some years ago in our Church, and to my saint of a bride of the same number of years (23– she married me DESPITE the diagnosis) who makes this worldly life already a bit of heaven.

  3. Suudy says:

    You are still doing grits wrong! A little brown sugar, and let the sugar and molasses melt, then some milk over the top. Heavenly breakfast fare. I reserve the cheese and grits or butter on grits for dinner.

  4. ArthurH says:

    Never tries sweet grits: Sounds tsaty-decadent!

    When I have them, grits with an egg-over-easy or two on top is my more common version for breakfast, with, of course, some bacon, and good-bread toast. Mmm Mmm MMMM

  5. Pearl says:

    A sick call set is our standard wedding gift – whether the couple is married in the Church or not. Usually, the one we give is a little fancier. We have my in-law’s sick call set in our home (which is the same style as the ones pictured). Thankfully, we have not had need to use it, yet.

    Thank you for bringing these to the fore.

  6. tho says:

    I know that I harp on this subject, maybe a little too much, but Extreme Unction has a distinct resonance, that Anointing of The Sick doesn’t have. After all, everyone has bouts of sickness, some serious, but really, we only die once. Please bring back words like Confession, Holy Ghost, Mass, instead of liturgy, and any number of VII distortions.
    As penance , I will subscribe to the latest one, Hagan Lio.

  7. Rob in Maine says:

    We had one around when I? was growing up. When my brother went to college (Stonehill in Massachusetts) he used to it hide his money.

  8. SanSan says:

    I have our family”sick call” crucifix hanging in our kitchen with palms from palm Sunday behind it. So happy it wasn’t lost or discarded.

  9. I have one of these crucifixes. It was one of the last gifts my grandmother gave me before her death when I was six. She selected it because it most resembled her own, which hung in her bedroom and which I found endlessly fascinating. I spent a lot of time just staring at it.

  10. baileymxd says:

    After my third consecutive miscarriage, my husband and I conceived #4 six weeks after. At that point, every positive pregnancy test seemed like a death sentence to us and we were at a loss of what to do. Our good friend and vicar at the time suggested Anointing of the Sick, not necessarily for me, but for the safety and life of the baby that my body never seemed to be able to carry.

    I don’t doubt that I have my rambunctious 2 year old because of the grace of that sacrament, the penances of that holy priest and my husband, and the intercession of Our Lady, which we offered the pregnancy to. We named our son after that priest.

  11. kat says:

    Not just for Extreme Unction. If the priest is making a sick call with Holy Communion, you also use this set.