Ministry to the Sick
Part 2 History

Chapter s24 Medieval Period [1200-1299 CE]

Secular History

Church History

Ministry to the Sick and Dying

Secular History

A period of superstition and magic in Europe. 

"Medicine"  was an "extreme remedy" in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Question:  What medicines were available to doctors at this time?  What remedies did doctors employ?  Amputation, Leaches, and blood letting.  Saint Francis of Assisi was having pain in his eyes and so finally the friars convinced him to go to the doctor.  The doctor took iron ax heads and heated them in a furnace until they were red hot and then pressed them to Francis' temples to draw the pain out of his eyes!  Question, how sick would you have to be, to want to go to the doctor?  This is the context for St. Thomas' pastoral explanation:  Extreme Unction as "spiritual medicine."

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Church History

1193 - 1280 Albert the Great

1210  Francis of Assisi visits the Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt in Damietta

1225 - 1274 Thomas Aquinas

Scholastics develop a "Sacramental Theology" in which Sacraments are signs of grace and have SPIRITUAL EFFECTS: e.g. the forgiveness of sins.

1254 Pope Innocent IV officially formulated the doctrine of purgatory in a letter to his legate sent to make contact with some Greek Christians.

1266 - 1308 John Duns Scotus

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Ministry to the Sick

Extreme Unction is the "Last Sacrament"; it prepares the dying Christian for the Beatific Vision.

Scholastics develop a "Sacramental Theology" in which Sacraments are signs of grace and have SPIRITUAL EFFECTS: e.g. the forgiveness of sins. Baptism forgives Original Sin. Confession forgives Mortal Sin.

Extreme Unction forgives what sin? -  There were two schools of thought.  The Dominicans said Extreme Unction forgives the temporal punishment due to sins.  The Franciscan theologians said that Extreme Unction forgives venial sins.  Today we see that this was a good insight:  All sacraments take away sin.  The Eucharist (the primary Sacrament) is the principal announcement of the Kingdom: Healing / Wholeness in mind, body, spirit.

This reinforces the understanding that the priest (the one authorized to forgive sins) is the only minister of Extreme Unction.   

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 10/06/12.  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org