One of the seven sacraments that is the least talked about is the Anointing of the sick. The Anointing of the sick is especially intended for those who are baptized Catholic and are ill physically and/or emotionally. “It is especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by an illness.” (CCC 1511)
The Priest or Bishop giving the anointing will make a cross on the individuals forehead and on each hand with oil pressed from olives or other plants. (CCC 1513). The Priest or Bishop will say
“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.”
It is valid to ask for the anointing if you have a persistent illness, if a person becomes ill once again, or if a condition worsens. Usually an individual is anointed before a surgery or serious procedure. Older people are usually anointed if they are weak even if an illness is not present. If you are not sure, you are always able to consult with a Priest or Bishop.
A common misconception about the Anointing of the sick is it’s only for those on their death bed. To my surprise when I was in grade school a family friend suggested I receive an anointing after a persistent problem with my asthma. I did so and have received the Sacrament a few times in my life. I believe the graces received through the sacrament have helped persevere and endure some tough times.
Like other sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick will often have a liturgical and communal segment. This can be celebrated with a group of sick persons, a hospital, church or at home (CCC 1517). If an individual is dying, the order will first include the anointing of the sick, then the sacrament of penance and the sacrament of the Eucharist will proceed as the “viaticum” or the “food for the journey” to eternal life.
Disclaimer: Gifts of the holy spirit will be received! You will receive the gift of strength in times of weakness, with peace and courage to overcome difficulties that come with dealing with a serious or persistent illness. Your trust and faith will be strengthened (CCC 1520).
From experience it is easy to fall into anguish and despair because you are not feeling well or not feeling yourself. The sacrament is to lead a person who is sick to heal the soul, and the mind and body if God wills.
If you want more information on the Anointing of the sick, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great resource, or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops here and/or the nearest Priest is always a great person to ask.