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Our Lady and St Edmund of Abingdon


When we are sick or dying we must face the fact of our mortality. In this time of difficulty, Jesus does not abandon us.

He gave us priests who bring us the graces of the sacrament of the sick, called Anointing of the Sick because the principle sign is anointing with oil consecrated by the bishop. Sometimes this sacrament is mistakenly called the 'Last Rites', though it is only one part of the complete Last Rites of the Church which also include Confession (if the person is able to speak), Holy Communion (called viaticum), and special prayers for the dying.


Anointing of the Sick is for Catholics who are sick or facing life-threatening situations (like major surgery or a serious medical emergency), as well as those who may be facing imminent death. Because of the notion that calling the priest for this sacrament may mean giving up on a dying loved one, many Catholics wait until too late to call the priest. Doing this risks leaving the dying person without the important graces of this sacrament.


The principle grace is a strengthening of the virtue of hope to help the sick person not to despair and to strengthen them against any fear of death. It also helps them to endure whatever suffering is caused by their illness or injuries and unites them to the suffering Christ who draws close to them and provides spiritual comfort. For those who are not able to make an oral confession of their sins it also provides forgiveness of sins. This is a great gift because it allows the ordinary grace of sacramental forgiveness to be given even in this extreme circumstance.

Sometimes the administration of this sacrament results in the healing of the sick person and even miraculous healing is not out of the realm of possibility, but there is no guarantee that such healing will occur in any particular instance.


This sacrament is described in the New Testament by the Apostle James when he writes:

"Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
(James 5:13-15)
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