Illness and suffering are a fact of life, and the Church walks alongside those who are sick, undergoing treatment for illness or are dying. We know that in Christ Jesus, we have a God who understands human suffering, as He Himself suffered.
In earlier times, the Church reserved anointing for those at the point of death. However, a deeper understanding of human frailty and the healing brought about by this sacrament means that the Anointing of the Sick is now offered to anyone undergoing a serious illness, those facing surgery, the elderly and those who are dying. Often, this sacrament is celebrated in a person’s home or in the hospital. It is also fitting to celebrate within the Mass and to offer the sacrament communally.
The priest lays his hands on the person receiving this sacrament, then anoints them with blessed oil. The Church asks that God give strength to the person who is sick and that they be more closely united with Christ in their suffering. Healing, if it is God’s will, is requested as well.
The Church does offer particular solace to those who are dying. Viaticum (meaning “food for the journey”) is Eucharist offered to those who are close to death.