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The sacrament by which Christ gives spiritual aid and strength to the sick and dying.
Before Vatican II, this sacrament was called Extreme Unction because it was administered almost at the point of death. The family at a dying Catholic’s bedside would wait until they thought death was only hours or minutes away, and then would call in a priest. The priest’s arrival often frightened the dying Catholic, because he seemed the harbinger of death.
Today we call it the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and Dying. If it were called merely the sacrament of anointing, it might be confused with Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, which also have a rite of anointing.
The priest administers it whenever there is proximate danger of death. Catholics who believe they may be within weeks of death, Catholics preparing for surgery that requires full anesthesia, or Catholics preparing for particularly hazardous activity should seek this sacrament. At many nursing homes, where sudden death is an ever-present possibility, a priest will anoint all of the elderly Catholics every few months. This sacrament can be received more than once, and should be received any time a Catholic believes he is at serious risk of death.
The priest anoints the person on the forehead and hands, using olive oil blessed by a bishop, while praying, “Through this holy anointing and His most loving mercy, may the Lord assist you by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that, freed from your sins, He may save you and in His goodness raise you up.”
The matter of this sacrament is olive oil blessed by a bishop, or in emergency any vegetable oil.
The form of this sacrament is the priest’s prayer, above.
Anointing of the Sick and Dying is normally considered a sacrament of the living, since it should be received in the state of grace.
When death is imminent and there is no opportunity to hear the person’s Confession, it may also serve as a sacrament of the dead.
The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and Dying is one of the two sacraments of healing. The other is the Sacrament of Penance.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #1499-1532
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia
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