White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

On the Sacrament of Anointing

Index: On The Sacrament of Anointing

Serving Two Masters
Curing And Healing
The Sacrament Of Healing
Effects Of Anointing Footnotes


Peace be with you.

We are offering you, the reader, a general framework from within which to appreciate the Sacrament of Anointing. The following information is just information. We might label the following simply as instruction. We do not say the information is right or wrong (although we have intended the information to be correct in stating what it does state). This information reflects a
Catholic Spirituality rather than a dogmatic statement. We tend to be non-dogmatic, so please do not take the following in any way to reflect the last word about The Sacrament of Anointing from the Catholic viewpoint. If you have any questions or need for clarifications, please contact your priest or deacon. Thank you.

Peace and Joy!

The White Robed Monks of St. Benedict

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The Sacrament of Anointing is one of the least understood sacraments. Many yet may confuse the purpose of the sacrament with the recently corrected historical misidentification and misunderstanding of the sacrament as "Extreme Unction," the last rites for the dying. The Sacrament of Anointing has its basis in the scriptures which presents a much different image, one of healing and joy.

A Reading from the Book of Ecclesiasticus: (38: 1-6; 9-10)

Honor the doctor with the honor that is his due
in return for his services;
for he too has been created by the Lord.
Healing itself comes from the Most High,
like a gift from a king.
The doctor's learning keeps his head high,
he is regarded with awe by potentates.
The Lord has brought medicines into existence from the earth,
and the sensible person will not despise them.
My children, when you are ill, do not be depressed,
but pray to the Lord and he will heal you.
Renounce your faults, keep your hands unsoiled,
and cleanse your heart from all sin.
A Reading from the Letter of James (5:14-16)

"Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and everybody who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."
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The healing nature of the Sacrament of Anointing is often confused with the desire for physical health (a cure, perhaps) and a healing. The healing the Sacrament brings is the creation of oneness, unity or wholeness. Healing happens when there is an openness to God and to others. "The hoped-for effect touches the health and salvation of the human person in a holistic sense, in which one aspect cannot be elevated above another. Sins, in the meaning of this letter, are not merely ordinary failings, but those that bring death (cf. James 1:15; 5:20). The initiative to healing and forgiving lies with God alone; the text gives no ground for seeing the actions it recommends as miraculous healings."1
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Sin is our choice to separate from the Unity and Wholeness both in our personal relationship with God and our relationship to the community. In general, we sin when we listen to our own selves rather than to God when deciding what to do. Our decisions we may cloud with our delusions, illusions and allusions. Delusions are false beliefs. Illusions are false perceptions. Allusions are false stories. All beliefs, perceptions and allusions are true as beliefs, perceptions, and stories. And all beliefs, perceptions, and stories are false as they relate to reality itself. What we may believe, perceive, and tell about a rose has little to do with the rose. The rose remains just what it is despite, and no matter how beautiful, each of us might individually or collectively believe, perceive or tell one another it is.
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We sin when we disobey God. Obedience derives from two Latin words: ob (through) and audiere (listen). We obey God when we listen through our own delusions, illusions, and allusions and surrender to His will rather than our own. We empty ourselves of our humanity to actualize our divinity as children of God, children of Light. And because we are children, we are able to live in the Kingdom of God rather than survive in the kingdom human beings imprisoned by self-created and self-maintained reactive conditioned habit patterns of behavior.

The act of surrendering ourselves to God and to others is the true meaning of Jesus' commandments to love God and love our neighbor.

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Our delusions, illusions and allusions are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad. They are just what they are. As essential elements that come with the package of being human, our maturity, is in direct relation to the extent we take responsibility for our beliefs, perceptions and stories. To the extent that we honor, follow and assume that our beliefs, perceptions, and stories are absolutely true, we create a false god: the god of the human trinity: Me, Myself, and I. Hence, we not only break the first 3 of the 10 Commandments of the Old Law:
  1. "You shall have no other gods before Me;
  2. You shall not make for yourself carved images
  3. You shall not bow down before them and serve them." (Exodus 20: 3-5);
but also Christ's Law: "'You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well". (Matthew 22:36-40) We confuse the relative with the absolute, but we also make our relative the absolute which is essentially idolatry as the theologian Paul Tillick writes.2
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We cannot serve two masters. We either serve God "beyond the coincidence of contradictories"3 or we serve our own self. We cannot truly serve God until we have mastered our own self. We master our own self when we surrender to our own self, to our human condition and thereby take full and absolute responsibility for our human condition. When we take responsibility we are free then to serve God as we individually may come to know and appreciate ourselves in Him and He in us as we are one (John 17:21) as God is one.
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Many of our present day illnesses (cancers, heart attacks, for example) are stress related disorders. (Full Catastrophe Living, John Kabat-Zinn Ph.D.) Dr. Kabat-Zinn's research at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center is quite clear. People are either responsive or reactive. If reactive, they tend to be at-risk much of time because they confuse the relative with the absolute. The tend to think (or believe) they are right, that their perceptions are true statements of absolute reality. They tend to delude themselves in their seemingly self-righteous rectitude. The more reactive a person is, the more that person is subject to illness and disease. They get sick, suffer and die often times from something other than natural old age, such a stress related disorders as noted above, including those disorders to which they have genetically predisposed themselves.

Those who live with a positive attitude to live life longer and healthier lives. They respect God's creation in all its manifestations and they respect themselves. Only when we respect ourselves can we respect others. This enlivens us and brings a certain glow or aura that others around us can perceive. It is magnetic in that it draws others to live full lives and can bring ease where there is dis-ease, joy where there is sorrow, and healing where there is hurt. The person tends to be more responsive and less reactive.

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Once sick, the reactive person tends look outside him/herself for what that person believes is the best cure from the best source on the market today. Be it apricot pits in Mexico to a chemical or radiation regimen in a major metropolitan health care facility, the person pays homage and makes the appropriate (time, energy, money) offerings hopefully (and anxiously) to obtain the quickest, most effective cure possible.

On the other hand, once sick, the responsive person tends to look first within and takes stock of one's current situation with a spirit of calmness and equanimity. They assume responsibility for what has occurred, for what they have done (sins of commission) and for what they have not done (sins of omission) without praise or blame. They then set out on a healing program, which may include curing attributes.

They also come to realize that they can effect change for the better by changing their behavior. By accepting the human condition they can also understand and accept that not every physical ailment can be cured. Sometimes healing takes the form of acceptance of the inevitability of one's death without surrendering to the fear of the unknown. A joyful acceptance of life coming to its fruition life the plant which reaches to the point of ideal maturity. It is only in death that we become fully and truly human. We complete, bring to fruition, our human experience.

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We cure from the outside in. We heal from the inside out. A cure is usually symptom ( i.e., cancer) based. A healing is system (i.e., the human system taken as a whole). A healing involves one's nature; a cure, one's nurture. A healing involves biology; a cure, physiology. To have a truly effective cure, a healing must occur. Sometimes a healing does not necessarily involve a cure, such as in spontaneous remissions.
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The Sacrament of Healing is just that: a healing. The person, as part of his or her healing process, takes special note of one's religion (joining) with God and the Church, the People of God. The person who requests the healing is usually intending to be empowered to not only to accept God's will but also to do what might be necessary to cooperate with God's will, be it to live or to die. In either case, one's is alive in God and to live or die ceases to be a compelling issue. The person feels the touch of the oil, "a sign of the Spirit's healing an strengthening presence" and which is usually not removed after the anointing.4 The person is able to listen to God and not be necessarily caught-up in the morass of one's present condition.
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The words of anointing are: Through this holy anointing may the Lord in the richness of his mercy and love help you; may he stand by you in the power of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.

In anointing we surrender to God once again for it is from God and through God and our cooperation with God that we heal and live. Like the Eucharist, "the anointing of the sick, presupposes that the situation is not concealed, but rather is brought to consciousness and thus placed in the presence of the loving and merciful God."
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In order to effect a catharsis in the healing process, the Sacrament of Anointing can strengthen one against despair, a natural reaction consequent in the human condition dealing with sickness or old age. It can help relieve the anger, guilt, and emotional suffering that may naturally accompany illness. Through anointing, a person might reaffirm his or her confidence in God's power and good will: "that thy will may be done on earth as it is in heaven." And finally, as an essential element to the healing process, the anointing allows the person to find forgiveness – from God, from others, and from self.6

Let us pray:
God of Compassion,
you take every family under your care
and know our physical and spiritual needs.
Transform our weakness by the strength of our grace
and confirm us in your covenant
so that we may grow in faith and love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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1. Herbert Vorgrimler, Sacramental Theology. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992; p. 228.
2. Fr. Andrew M. Greely. Myths of Religion. New York: Warner Books, 1989, p. 250.
3. The Dalai Lama. The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1996; p. 9. (Referencing 15th Century Cardinal Nicholas' of Cusa coincidentia oppositorum, integrating the particular and universal.)
4. Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1983, p. 94.
5. Vorgrimler, p. 235.
6. About the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. A Scriptographic Booklet, p. 7.
7. Pastoral Care, Opening Prayer of Mass with Anointing, p.126.

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