Today’s Catechism sections continue the discussion on the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Supporting material comes from the “Summa Theologica”.

"Heal the sick . . ."

1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn.113 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: "So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them."114

1507 The risen Lord renews this mission ("In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."115) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name.116 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly "God who saves."117

1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing118 so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church."119

1509 "Heal the sick!"120 The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health.121

1510 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."122 Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments.123

A sacrament of the sick

1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:

This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord.124

1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation.125

1513 The Apostolic Constitution Sacram unctionem infirmorum,126 following upon the Second Vatican Council,127 established that henceforth, in the Roman Rite, the following be observed:

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil - pressed from olives or from other plants - saying, only once: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up."128

The “Summa Theologica” (Supplement, 29, 7) discusses the form of this sacrament.

Article 7. Whether this sacrament has a form?

Objection 1. It would seem that this sacrament has no form. Because, since the efficacy of the sacraments is derived from their institution, as also from their form, the latter must needs be appointed by the institutor of the sacrament. But there is no account of the form of this sacrament being instituted either by Christ or by the apostles. Therefore this sacrament has no form.

Objection 2. Further, whatever is essential to a sacrament is observed everywhere in the same way. Now nothing is so essential to a sacrament that has a form, as that very form. Therefore, as in this sacrament there is no form commonly used by all, since various words are in use, it seems that this sacrament has no form.

Objection 3. Further, in Baptism no form is needed except for the sanctification of the matter, because the water is "sanctified by the word of life so as to wash sin away," as Hugh states (De Sacram. ii). Now the matter of this sacrament is already consecrated. Therefore it needs no form of words.

On the contrary, The Master says (Sent. iv, D, 1) that every sacrament of the New Law consists in things and words. Now the words are the sacramental form. Therefore, since this is a sacrament of the New Law, it seems that it has a form.

Further, this is confirmed by the rite of the Universal Church, who uses certain words in the bestowal of this sacrament.

I answer that, Some have held that no form is essential to this sacrament. This, however, seems derogatory to the effect of this sacrament, since every sacrament signifies its effect. Now the matter is indifferent as regards its effect, and consequently cannot be determined to any particular effect save by the form of words. Hence in all the sacraments of the New Law, since they effect what they signify, there must needs be things and words. Moreover James (5:14-15) seems to ascribe the whole force of this sacrament to prayer, which is the form thereof, as we shall state further on (ad 2: 8,9). Wherefore the foregoing opinion seems presumptuous and erroneous; and for that reason we should hold with the common opinion that this, like all the other sacraments, has a fixed form.

Reply to Objection 1. Holy Writ is proposed to all alike: and so, the form of Baptism, which can be conferred by all, should be expressed in Holy Writ, as also the form of the Eucharist, which in regard to that sacrament, expresses faith which is necessary for salvation. Now the forms of the other sacraments are not contained in Holy Writ, but were handed down to the Church by the apostles, who received them from our Lord, as the Apostle declares (1 Corinthians 11:23): "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you," etc.

Reply to Objection 2. The words which are essential to the form, viz. the prayer of deprecation, are said by all; but other words which pertain to the well-being thereof, are not said by all.

Reply to Objection 3. The matter of Baptism has a certain sanctification of its own from the very contact of our Savior’s flesh; but the form of words sanctifies it so that it has a sanctifying force. In like manner when the matter of this sacrament has been sanctified in itself, it requires sanctification in its use, so that it may sanctify actually.


113 Cf. ⇒ Mt 10:38.
114 ⇒ Mk 6:12-13.
115 ⇒ Mk 16:17-18.
116 Cf. ⇒ Acts 9:34; ⇒ 14:3.
117 Cf. ⇒ Mt 1:21; ⇒ Acts 4:12.
118 Cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 12:9, ⇒ 28, ⇒ 30.
119 ⇒ 2 Cor 12:9; ⇒ Col 1:24.
120 ⇒ Mt 10:8.
121 Cf. ⇒ Jn 6:54, ⇒ 58; ⇒ 1 Cor 11:30.
122 ⇒ Jas 5:14-15.
123 Cf. Council of Constantinople II (553) DS 216; Council of Florence (1439) 1324- 1325; Council of Trent (1551) 1695-1696; 1716-1717.
124 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. ⇒ Mk 6:13; ⇒ Jas 5:14-15.
125 Cf. Council of Trent (1551) DS 1696.
126 Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Sacram unctionem infirmorum, November 30, 1972.
127 Cf. SC 73.
128 Cf. ⇒ CIC, Can. 847 # 1.