The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is a celebration in which those who are seriously ill or infirm are surrounded and supported by other member of the Christian community, whether at home or in the house or the church (for those who can leave their beds and come here). In song and in silence, with scriptures and prayers, we strengthen the bonds of love and faith that are stronger than the most lethal disease and more powerful even than death. The sacrament may be celebrated in the context of a Mass, or on its own, depending on the needs of the person who is sick.
The celebration opens with brief introductory rites that help us remember that God is with us and that we are the body of Christ. Then follows a liturgy of the word in which we hear scriptures that shed light on the meaning of sickness and suffering and the compassion of our God, who suffers with us. Depending on the needs of the person who is sick, one brief passage or two or three readings and a psalm may be used. A homily may be preached, too.
Then the rite continues. The gathered church surrounds the person who is sick with the prayer of faith. In response to God's word, a litany is prayed. Then a prayer is said over the oil of the sick. Then, the priest does the laying on of hands, an ancient sign of the moving of the Holy Spirit to heal and save. This is done in silence. Finally, the priest anoints the head and the hands of the one who is sick. While anointing the sick person's head, the priest says "Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit." And all answer "Amen!" While anointing the hands, the priest says, "May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." And again, all answer "Amen!" A final prayer is then said. The rite ends with a blessing.
WORLD DAY OF THE SICK
World Day of the Sick highlights the healing ministry of the church. The ministry of Jesus to heal is central to the life of the Church. It reminds us that service to the sick and suffering cannot be neglected.
We get hurt. We wear out. But in the midst of this pain, hope, courage, and at times peace, can be found. Life experience is marked and celebrated with the rites of our tradition.
Anyone who is ill can be anointed, including the elderly who become weaker even if no illness is present. Those who are awaiting surgery may be included. The mentally ill may be anointed providing they will be helped, and not harmed by the rite.
The community can express its concern for members who are ill by celebrating The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In this communal celebration those to be anointed are surrounded and supported by other members of the Christian community to help bring about a sense of solidarity between the sick and the healthy. This is a rich symbol - this simple touching and anointing in silence. To those who are ill, the laying of hands makes clear, what is really true: they are never alone, never cut off from the community.
This sacrament celebrates and reminds us of the compassion of God and helps us to experience spiritual and sometimes physical strengthening when we are ill. Those who wish to celebrate this sacrament will be invited to come forward to be anointed. While the rest of the community is called to be a visible support for those who are ill. On this day those who are ill are encouraged to reflect on the Christian meaning of suffering and to recall God's health giving presence. We are reminded that God heals and restores life in unexpected ways.
[Source: St. Paul Roman Catholic Parish Bulletin, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, February, 2008]