by Fr. Bennet Tran
Good People of St Stephen:
We have a great tradition at our parish of celebrating the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick at Mass. Jesus established this special sacrament to encourage and strengthen those in need of the Jesus’ healing ministry. It is a powerful and effective sacrament. The Sacrament of Anointing is no longer reserved for those nearing bodily death. For those of a certain vintage, this sacrament was once referred to as Extreme Unction. The Church recommends this sacrament to all those who “having reached the age of reason, are in danger of death due to sickness or old age” (Canon 1004).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life” (CCC 1532).
We now celebrate this sacrament more widely than in the past. It is also important to remember that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is not simply a blessing intended for all. The celebration of this sacrament has as its end some very specific purposes and all of them united to the mystery of mortality and death. The Church encourages great generosity in the celebration of the sacrament, and demands of her ministers to be broad in the interpretation of the expression “danger of death.”
We encourage those who have the following conditions to approach this sacrament:
• Those who have been diagnosed with a serious illness or are suffering due to a significant physical ailment or injury that is potentially life-threatening
• Those struggling with serious mental illness that puts their life in danger
• Those preparing for major surgery
• Those whose age or physical condition has begun to limit their independence
The sacrament may be celebrated multiple times if one of the conditions outlined above continues or if it returns after remission.
For those who God has blessed with good health and would generally preclude them from receiving the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, but find themselves in need of the Lord’s blessing and healing power, I recommend the frequent use of the other great sacrament of healing, Reconciliation. Additionally, please take advantage of other means the Lord provides, including the sacramentals such as holy water, blessed candles, blessed medals, devotions and the veneration of sacred images. Also, do not forget the life-changing power of intercessory prayer on the part of other believers.
Please join us as we celebrate this beautiful healing sacrament on Saturday, October 6 at 10:00 a.m. (Please note there is no 8:00 a.m. Mass that day.) Come celebrate God’s power of healing and the tremendous power of this sacrament. Fathers Shireman and Quail and I consider it a special blessing in our priestly lives to have the privilege of celebrating this sacrament with God’s people.