Anointing of the Sick in the Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, the Anointing of the sick, also known as Extreme Unction, is a Catholic sacrament that is administered to a Catholic "who, having reached the age of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age",[1] except in the case of those who "persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin".[2] Proximate danger of death, the occasion for the administration of Viaticum, is not required, but only the onset of a medical condition of serious illness or injury or simply old age: "It is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived."[3]

"Extreme Unction", part of The Seven Sacraments (1445-1450) by Rogier van der Weyden.

Despite that position, anointing of the sick has in practice often been postponed until someone is near dying, in spite of the fact that in all celebrations of this sacrament, the liturgy prays for recovery of the health of the sick person if that would be conducive to his salvation. In the past it became increasingly administered only to the dying and so came to be called Extreme Unction (Final Anointing).[3]

The sacrament is administered by a bishop or priest, who uses the oleum infirmorum ('oil of the sick'), an olive oil or another pure plant oil blessed by a bishop, to anoint the patient's forehead and perhaps other parts of the body while reciting certain prayers. It gives comfort, peace, courage and, if the sick person is unable to make a confession, even forgiveness of sins.[4][5][6]