Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Looking ahead

Care for your sick loved one by
anointing them in early illness.
Anointing of the sick

By Father Perry D. Leiker

Before the Second Vatican Council, we used to refer to the sacrament of the anointing of the sick as extreme unction. This unction or anointing was also a known as the last rites.

The common understanding was that near the moment of death, even in the last hour, it was then time to call the priest so that he could anoint the dying person. Often a person would be unconscious or not very alert. Some waited literally until the last moments to not scare the person.

Until modern times many people’s illnesses came on rather quickly, were short, and led to a quick death. Calling the priest often came without much warning. But the rite we have used since Vatican II even begins with this instruction, quoting the apostle James: “Are there any who are sick among you? Let them send for the priests of the Church, and let the priests pray over them, anointing them with the oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14).

This is an era when illnesses extend sometimes for years; people spend significant time in convalescent care, and the pathway to death is able to be determined in advance almost to the hour. James’ words are more important than ever before. Early in an illness, or when someone arrives at the hospital or convalescent home, is the time to call the priest, who then has some reasonable time to arrange to anoint and give pastoral care to the sick

Don’t wait! Don’t risk calling the priest and not finding one available. Care for your sick loved one by anointing them in early illness. 

Father Perry D. Leiker is administrator of St. Bernard Parish. Reach him at (323) 255-6142.

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