Question: If it isn’t only for people who are dying, when should someone receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?
Answer: One of the unfortunate realities in the Church today is that so few people understand the meaning and value of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, largely because so many people still mistakenly think of this sacrament as “Last Rites” or “Extreme Unction.”
In his life and ministry, Jesus healed the sick. In this sacrament, the Church continues the healing mission of Jesus and, in hope, prays that God will grant healing to the person who is suffering. But even if there is no physical healing, the sacrament offers spiritual healing through the Holy Spirit’s gifts of peace and courage. And so, anyone who is living with serious illness (including emotional or psychological illness) and the elderly are encouraged to celebrate this sacrament when it is needed.
The ritual for Anointing of the Sick does also include special prayers and blessings for those who are facing death, including viaticum (communion given to the dying, trusting that the Lord Jesus will be their companion along the way, as they make their final journey).