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My Pope Asks: What Is The ‘Last Sacrament’?

My Pope takes a closer look at “the Last Sacrament,” and how it helps bring new life to the body, mind, and spirit.

Perhaps you may heard your lolo or lola talk about it–or maybe you have seen movies that shows the last sacrament. It usually starts with the line “tumawag ka na ng pari,” for you to know that something is really wrong–meaning when someone is about to die.

So what is this “last sacrament” and is it just administered when someone is on the brink of death? Let’s find out!

Extreme Unction

The sacrament that used to be called Extreme Unction, a.k.a. the Last Anointing, still exists today– but the Vatican renewed the theology behind it. In the process, the ritual was overhauled, and the sacrament was given a new name, Anointing of the Sick. Instead of making it all about death, its focus is now on healing and new life.

As Fr. Don Miller of franciscanmedia.org aptly puts it, “This sacrament, then, is not to be viewed as the kiss of death, but one of healing and life.” Oftentimes, those who have received it go on to live happily and healthily for many more years. (Read: Pope at Angelus: Healthcare for All Is Essential Service)

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Photo from Cleveland.com

What exactly is Anointing of the Sick?

Elderly or gravely ill Catholics are administered the sacrament as a priest blesses them with holy oil and special prayers. Through the sacrament, sins are forgiven, and recipients also experience spiritual—and for some, even physical healing (should this be conducive for their salvation)—thanks to the grace the sacrament confers.

Anointing of the Sick also gives one a sense of peace of mind and heart, and most importantly, it unites one with Christ who also suffered, renewing hope and giving courage to those who are in despair. In other cases, it prepares one to pass on to the next life. (Read: Prayer for Families Facing a Loved One’s Death This Quarantine)

My Pope reader Mari, 44, recalls how the sacrament helped her father as he suffered from cancer. “My dad had received Anointing of the Sick several times throughout his life when he was younger, but I was there when it was given to him as he was dying. He was immediately filled with a sense of calm, and he even recovered long enough to spend one more precious week with our family. When he passed away seven days later, he was at peace and ready to meet his Maker.”

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A priest anoints a sick woman during the observance of the World Day of the Sick in Manila on Feb. 11. (Photo from Angie de Silva/UCA News)

Who can receive the sacrament?

Baptized Catholics who have reached the age of reason and are elderly or seriously
ill can receive Anointing of the Sick.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only for those who are on their deathbeds as
recipients need not be in extremis—that is, in imminent danger of dying—to receive this sacrament. It is also not only for your lolo or lola as even young children can be anointed if their illness or injury warrants it.

What if the ill person recovers? Can he receive this sacrament again?

Yes. In fact, Canon 1004 states that “This sacrament can be repeated whenever
the sick person again falls into a serious sickness after convalescence or whenever a more serious crisis develops during the same sickness.” (Read: Prayer of Gratitude for Answered Prayer)


Text by Stephanie Jesena-Novero and Tata Mapa

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