Anointing of the Sick
Part 4 The Ritual: 
Pastoral Care of the Sick

Chapter s40 Introduction to the Ritual

Preliminary Questions


Constitution on the Liturgy

Apostolic Constitution

Introduction to Rite of Anointing

Summary of Changes

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

What is your experience of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?  Have you ever been anointed?  What happened?   What did it feel like?  Does your parish celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick regularly during Sunday Eucharist?  How many Catholics in your opinion still think of the Sacrament as "Extreme Unction"? 

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Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Sacram Unctione Infirmorum, On The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, November 30, 1972

Administration of Communion & Viaticum to the Sick by an Extraordinary Minister   --  Bilingual (Rev. Ed. 2014):  La Sagrada Comunión y el Viático Administrados por un Ministro Extraordinatio. USCCB Publications. Product Code: 7-335. ISBN: 978-1-60137-335-9 Pages: 52. $6.95 – New bilingual (English/Spanish) edition (2104) contains two rites, one for use when communion can be celebrated in the context of a liturgy of the word; the other, a brief communion rite for use in more restrictive circumstances, such as a hospital.

"Anointing of the Sick:  Theological Issues," 63 (2001) 233-254, Susan K. Woods. SCL

"Ministry to the Sick and Dying in View of the Shortage of Priests," 63 (2001) 127-146, John Huels, OSM

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Constitution on the Liturgy

This material is treated in the History of the Sacrament, see:   Chapter s29 Vatican II


73. "Extreme unction," which may also and more fittingly be called "anointing of the sick," is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.

74. In addition to the separate rites for anointing of the sick and for viaticum, a continuous rite shall be prepared according to which the sick man is anointed after he has made his confession and before he receives viaticum.

75. The number of the anointings is to be adapted to the occasion, and the prayers which belong to the rite of anointing are to be revised so as to correspond with the varying conditions of the sick who receive the sacrament.

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Apostolic Constitution Sacram Unctione Infirmorum

This text is taken from the Vatican website.

November 30, 1972

The Catholic Church professes and teaches that the Sacred Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven Sacraments of the New Testament, that it was instituted by Christ and that it is "alluded to in Mark (Mk. 6:13) and recommended and promulgated to the faithful by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. If any one of you is ill, he says, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14-15)."(1. Council of Trent, Session XIV, De extr. unct., chapter 1 [cf. ibid. canon 1]: CT, VII, 1, 355-356; Denz. Schon, 1695, 1716.)

From ancient times testimonies of the Anointing of the Sick are found in the Church's Tradition, particularly her liturgical Tradition, both in the East and in the West. Especially worthy of note in this regard are the Letter which Innocent I, our predecessor, addressed to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio,(2. Letter Si Instituta Ecclesiastica, chapter 8: PL, 20, 559-561; Denz. Schon, 216.) and the venerable prayer used for blessing the Oil of the Sick: "Send forth, 0 Lord, your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete," which was inserted in the Eucharistic Prayer(3. Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae Ordinis Anni Circuli, ed. L. C. Mohlberg [Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Documenta, Fontes, IV], Rome 1960, p. 61; Le Sacramentaire Gregorien, ed. J. Deshusses [Spicilegium Friburgense, 16], Fribourg 1971, p. 172; cf. La Tradition Apostolique de Saint Hippolyte, ed. B. Botte Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen, 39, Miinster in W. 1963, pp. 18-19; Le Grand Euchologe du MonaWre Blanc, ed. E. Lanne [Patrologia Orientalis, XXVIII, 2], Paris 1958, pp. 392-395.) and is still preserved in the Roman Pontifical.(4.Cf. Pontificale Romanum: Ordo benedicendi Oleum Catechumenorum et Infirmorum et conficiendi Chrisma, Vatican City 1971, pp. 11-12.)

In the course of the centuries, in the liturgical Tradition the parts of the body of the sick person to be anointed with Holy Oil were more explicitly defined, in different ways, and there were added various formulas to accompany the anointings with prayer, which are contained in the liturgical books of various Churches. During the Middle Ages, in the Roman Church there prevailed the custom of anointing the sick on the five senses, using the formula: "Per istam Sanctam unctionem et suam Piissimam misericordiam, indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid deliquisti," adapted to each sense.(5.Cf. M. Andrieu, Le Pontifical Romain au Moyen-Age, vol. 1, Le Pontifical Romain du XIIe sikle (Studi e Testi, 86), Vatican City 1938, pp. 267-268; vol. 2, Le Pontifical de la Curie Romaine au XIIIe siAcle (Studi e Testi, 87), Vatican City 1940 pp. 491-492.)

In addition, the doctrine concerning Sacred Anointing is expounded in the documents of the Ecumenical Councils, namely the Council of Florence and in particular the Council of Trent and the Second Vatican Council.

After the Council of Florence had described the essential elements of the Anointing of the Sick, (6. Decr. pro Armeniis, G. Hofmann, Council of, Florence, 1/11, p. 130; Denz.Schon,1324f.) the Council of Trent declared its divine institution and explained what is given in the Epistle of Saint James concerning the Sacred Anointing, especially with regard to the reality and effects of the sacrament: "This reality is in fact the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose anointing takes away sins, if any still remain to be taken away, and the remnants of sin; it also relieves and strengthens the soul of the sick person, arousing in him a great confidence in the divine mercy, whereby being thus sustained he more easily bears the trials and labors of his sickness, more easily resists the temptations of the devil 'lying in wait' (Gen. 3:15), and sometimes regains bodily health, if this is expedient for the health of the soul."(7. Council of Trent, Sess. XIV, De extr. unct., chapter 2: CT, VII, 1, 356; Denz.Schon,1696. ) The same Council also declared that in these words of the Apostle it is stated with sufficient clarity that "this anointing is to be administered to the sick, especially those who are in such a condition as to appear to have reached the end of their life, whence it is also called the sacrament of the dying."(8. Ibid., chapter 3: CT, ibid.; Denz. Schon., 1698.) Finally, it declared that the priest is the proper minister of the sacrament.(9. Ibid., chapter 3, canon 4: CT, ibid.; Denz. Schon., 1697-1719.)

The Second Vatican Council adds the following: "'Extreme Unction,' which may also and more fittingly be called 'Anointing of the Sick,' is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the appropriate time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived."(10.Second Vatican Council, Const. Sacrosanctum concilium, 73: A.A.S., LVI (1964) 118-119. )The fact that the use of this sacrament concerns the whole Church is shown by these words: "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of her priests, the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, asking that he may lighten their suffering and save them (cf. James 5:14-16). She exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole People of God by associating themselves freely with the passion and death of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Pt. 4:13)." (11.Ibid.,Const.Lumen gentium, II:A.A.S., LVII (1965) 15.)Second Vatican Council, Const. Sacrosanctum concilium, 73: A.A.S., LVI (1964) 118-119.All these elements had to be taken into consideration in revising the rite of Sacred Anointing, in order better to adapt to present-day conditions those elements which were subject to change. (12Cf. Second Vatican Council, Const. Sacrosanctum concilitini, 1: A.A.S. LVI (1964) 97.) We thought fit to modify the sacramental formula in such a way that, in view of the words of Saint James, the effects of the sacrament might be better expressed.

Further, since olive oil, which hitherto had been prescribed for the valid administration of the sacrament, is unobtainable or difficult to obtain in some parts of the world, we decreed, at the request of numerous bishops, that in the future, according to the circumstances, oil of another sort could also be used, provided it were obtained from plants, inasmuch as this more closely resembles the matter indicated in Holy Scripture.

As regards the number of anointings and the parts of the body to be anointed, it has seemed to us opportune to proceed to a simplification of the rite.

Therefore, since this revision in certain point's touches upon the sacramental rite itself, by our Apostolic authority we lay down that the following is to be observed for the future in the Latin Rite:


In case of necessity however it is sufficient that a single anointing be given on the forehead or, because of the particular condition of the sick person, on another more suitable part of the body, the whole formula being pronounced.

This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having once received the Anointing, recovers and then again falls sick, or if, in the course of the same illness, the danger becomes more acute

Having laid down and declared these elements concerning the essential rite of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we, by our Apostolic authority, also approve the Order of the Anointing of the Sick and of their pastoral care, as it has been revised by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. At the same time, we revoke, where necessary, the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law or other laws hitherto in force, or we abrogate them; other prescriptions and laws, which are neither abrogated nor changed by the above-mentioned Order, remain valid and in force. The Latin edition of the Order containing the new rite will come into force as soon as it is published. The vernacular editions, prepared by the episcopal conferences and confirmed by the Apostolic See, will come into force on the day that will be laid down by the individual conferences. The old Order can be used until December 31, 1973. From January 1, 1974, however, the new Order only is to be used by all those whom it concerns.

We desire that these decrees and prescriptions of ours shall, now and in the future, be fully effective in the Latin Rite, notwithstanding, as far as is necessary, the Apostolic Constitutions and Directives issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even if worthy of special mention.

Given at St. Peter's in Rome, on the thirtieth day of November, in the year 1972, the tenth of our Pontificate.

Pope Paul VI

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Introduction to Rite of Anointing


1."Suffering and illness have always been among the greatest problems that trouble the human spirit. Christians feel and experience pain as do all other people; yet their faith helps them to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear their pain with greater courage. From Christ's words they know that sickness has meaning and value for their own salvation and for the salvation of the world. They also know that Christ, who during his life often visited and healed the sick, loves them in their illness." (PCS, 1)  Commentary TRR 

2. Although closely linked with the human condition, sickness cannot as a general rule be regarded as a punishment inflicted on each individual for personal sins (see John 9:3). Christ himself, who is without sin, in fulfilling words of Isaiah took on all the wounds of his passion and shared in all human pain (see Isaiah 53:4-5). Christ is still pained and tormented in his members, made like him. Still, our afflictions seem momentary and slight when compared to the greatness of eternal glory for which they prepare us (see 2 Corinthians 4:17).

3. Part of the plan laid out by God's providence is that we should fight strenuosly against all sickness and carefully seek the blessings of good health, so that we may fulfill out role in human society and in the Church. Yet we should always be prepared to fill up what is lacking in Christ's sufferings for the salvation of the world as we look forward to creation's being set free in the glory of the children of God ( see Colossians 1:24; Romans 8:19-21).

4. The sick person is not the only one who should fight against illness. Doctors and all who are devoted in any way to caring for the sick should consider it their duty to use all the mean which in their judgment may help the sick, for Christ implied that those who visit the sick should be concerned for the whole person and offer both physical relief and spiritual comfort.

Celebration of the Sacraments, for the sick and dying

Anointing of the Sick




Recipients of the Anointing of the Sick









Minister of the Anointing of the Sick





Requirements for Celebrating the Anointing of the Sick


I discuss the use of oil in the liturgy Chapter i37 Confirmation

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Viaticum for the Dying





Continuous Rite



Offices and Ministries for the Sick









Adaptations by the Minister



Summary of Changes

 1972 Nov 30  Apostolic Constitution  "Sacram Unctionem Infirmorum" on the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

1.  Changes name:  "Extreme Unction" to "Anointing of the Sick"
2.  Changes purpose:   from "dying / dead" to "sick" and "healing"
3.  Changes "matter" -- "olive oil" to "any plant oil"
4.  Changes the "form" -- text moves from forgiveness to healing
5.  Changes the anointings to "head and hands" from the five senses 

1972 Dec 07 Ordo Unctionis Infirmorum Eorumque Pastoralis Curae

1-5 as above
5.  Priest can bless oil each time
6.  Imposition of hands re-emphasized
7.  Sacrament can be repeated during the same illness
8.  Illnesses of "mind-body-spirit" (was:  body/soul)  All interconnected
9.  Preference for communal celebration
10.  Restored sequence:  Reconciliation, Anointing, Viaticum
11.  Make the sacrament more available

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To Think About

  1. Current ritual

    1. Be familiar with the richness of the texts.

    2. Know the options available.

    3. Front of the book for the sick; back of the book for the dying.

    4. Memorize the prayer during the anointing.

  2. Deacons' concerns 1989 and 1990

    1. How sick does one have to be? -- So that the prayers are authentic.

    2. Repeatability -- So that the prayers are authentic.

    3. Mental sickness -- "heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit."

    4. Children -- if old enough to be worried about illness...

    5. Alcoholism -- "heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit."

    6. Ecumenical questions -- Baptism. Minister available.

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