Anointing of the Sick

From Academic Kids

The Anointing of the Sick is one of the sacraments of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Oriental Orthodoxy, and is also practiced in some Protestant churches.

The former name Extreme Unction was used in the Western (Roman) part of the Catholic Church from the end of the twelfth century until the Second Vatican Council, and was never popular in the Eastern (Orthodox) part. Nevertheless most believers in Italy and Spain still call the sacrament "Estrema Unzione" / "Extrema Uncin". Last Rites is a common but misleading term; the Anointing of the Sick can be received as often as the believer desires and should not be postponed until death is thought to be near, nor is its administration intended to imply an expectation that the recipient is about to die. At one point in history, the sacrament was reserved until death was believed to be imminent, in order to reduce the possibility of the sick person committing further sins after its administration. However, since the Second Vatican Council this is no longer the case.

The sacrament has also been known as the holy oil, or unction, of the sick; the unction or blessing of consecrated oil; the unction of God; the office of the unction; and so on. Its Latin name Unctio in Extremis, means "Anointing in the Extremes". In the Eastern Church the technical name is euchelaion (Greek το Ἂγιον ευχέλαιον, "Holy grace-oil") or simply elaion hagion (ἒλαιον ἂγιον "holy oil").

The chief biblical text for anointing of the sick is the Epistle of James

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.
James, 5:14,15

The sacrament is held to give spiritual aid and comfort and perfect spiritual health, including the forgiveness of sins to Christians who are seriously ill. Catholics hold that in some cases it effects miraculous cures.

While changes were made in the Rituale Romanum regarding this sacrament in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, there are still Catholic priests around the world who are allowed to offer the sacrament in its Tridentine form under papal indult. The films Brideshead Revisited and Darby O'Gill and the Little People both include cinematic adaptations of the performance of the rite in the traditional manner.

A related sacrament is Holy Viaticum, which is Holy Communion given to a dying believer.


To anoint is to rub with oil; the priest uses olive oil. In the Catholic Church the oil (oleum infirmorum) usually has been blessed by a bishop at the Chrism Mass, which traditionally takes place on Holy Thursday. However if such oil is not available, the priest is able to use other vegetable oil (olive if available), which he himself consecrates for use, though he may not consecrate more oil than he needs for the anointing. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, any elder may consecrate pure olive oil for the anointing of the sick.

Anointing of the Sick can be performed on an individual basis according to the individual person's needs, or it can be offered on a communal basis. Often Catholic parishes will also offer a communal Anointing of the Sick once or twice a year. In most cases, this is done as part of the Mass. In a communal anointing, the priest calls for anyone who believes that they would benefit from the reception of the sacrament to come forward, and those that come forward then receive the sacrament.

If the sacrament is performed on an individual basis, the priest will perform the sacrament as part of a brief rite, or ceremony, if the time and circumstances permit. Anointing of the Sick can be and often is combined with other sacraments, such as confession and communion. (The normal order, if there is no imminent danger of death, would be confession, then anointing, then communion.) The Apostolic Pardon may be given by the priest at the same time, especially if the person is believed to be in danger of death.

In the present rite, the Anointing of the Sick is performed by the priest. The priest uses the consecrated oil to trace a cross on the person's forehead. While he does this, he says, "Through this Holy Anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit." He then uses the consecrated oil to trace a cross on a person's palms. While he does this, he says, "May He who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." In the Eastern Churches, the priest also anoints various other parts of the body.

In the event the older form is used, the Priest says, "Per istam sanctam unctionem, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid deliquisti, Amen." - "Through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed."

Protestant form

Some Protestant churches, especially Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals also perform Anointing of the Sick. However the form is usually very different from Catholic and Orthodox practice. The inspiration for it comes directly from the James passage quoted above. It is generally (but not necessarily} a church minister who performs the action, and there is no set formula. The oil is applied to the person and they are prayed for. The ritual is not associated with nearness to death, and there is not necessarily forgiveness of sins implied.

The Roman Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Anointing of the Sick in Protestant churches.

External links

de:Krankensalbung es:Uncin de los enfermos nl:Ziekenzalving no:Sykesalving pl:Namaszczenie chorych zh:病人傅油聖事 This article incorporates text from the public domain Catholic Encyclopedia.


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