Anointing of the Sick is the sacrament that is received by those who are ill or suffering. By the sacred anointing and the prayer of the priest, the whole Church commends those who are sick to Christ. The sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gifts of strength, faith, peace, and courage, and his or her suffering is united with the suffering of Christ for the building up of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], nos. 1520-23).
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Unlike the traditional understanding of the Last Rites, the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is, ideally, to be administered in a communal celebration.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that when the sick are anointed they should be "assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention" (1516). "Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration…It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist" (1517).
The healing that occurs in this sacrament of anointing is not necessarily physical healing. While we believe that physical healing can occur through the great power of God, the grace that is infused through this special sacrament is the reminder of the eternal presence of God in our human suffering.
When the priest blesses the oil of anointing, he asks God to "send the power of your Holy Spirit, the Consoler, into this precious oil. Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction" (Pastoral Care of the Sick, #123).
"The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament" (CCC 1531).