The pastoral care of the sick and the elderly is an extremely imiportant area of ministry. The church brings the comfort, consolation and the presence of Jesus Christ to those who are in need.
The church suggest that there are two groups to whom the Sacrament of Anointing should be administered. The first are those who suffer from a serious illness. The church does not define what "serious" means; instead, it calls upon the prudent judgment of the minister and recipient. The illness may be either chronic or acute, emotional or physical. If the illness requires hospitalization, medication, surgery, or long-term treatment, the person should be anointed.
The second group of people is comprised of the elderly who "have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present. (Pastoral Care of the Sick, general introduction). Again, the decision calls for prudent judgment.
(In recent years an understanding of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has promted the church to offer this sacrament, not only in life threatening circumstances; i.e. hospitals, but rather within the context of the faith community gathering to pray for the sick and elderly).
The worshipping community is very important in the celebration of this sacrament. This serves two purposes. First, it reminds those who are sick that in the midst of their illness, they are neither alone nor forgotten. Second, the community of worshippers are reminded of its responsibility to pray and care for the sick.
The Liturgy includes an opening prayer, reading from scripture, a brief homily, prayer intercessions, the laying of the hands, anointing of the sick and elderly and final prayer of blessing. The person being anointed is anointed with the Oil of the Sick, blessed during Holy week by the diocesan bishop. The forehead and the palms of the hands are anointed by the priest. Oil has a long biblical history of being an agent of strengtening and soothing. The Oil of the Sick, through faith, strengthens and enocurages the recipient to share in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.
[Source: St. Paul Roman Catholic Parish Bulletin, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, February 10, 2008]