The Cathedral of Saint Thomas More News:

Anointing of the Sick

When to Call the Rectory if Someone is Ill

Care of the sick and infirm is one of the most important things that a parish does. Knowledge that the Church is there for the person in their time of need can give the strength of faith that helps us to remain close to Christ at the particular time when we are asked to share in His Cross.

If anyone in the parish is bed-ridden or home-bound, please inform the rectory!  If a person has a serious illness, please inform the rectory!  When in doubt about whether someone should receive the anointing of the sick, please let us know and the priest will be best able to make that judgment. 

The rectory can be reached at (703) 525-1300 or by email.  If there is an emergency (someone is imminently close to death) during the night time hours, you may call (703) 525-1300 ext. 12 or ext. 23.  

Scroll down to see the following:

  • Role of the Suffering in the Life of the Church
  • If Someone is Ill, When should I Call the Rectory?
  • Basic Catechesis on the Anointing of the Sick
  • Scripture and the Anointing of the Sick
  • Prayer when Confronted by Suffering

The Role of Suffering in the Life of the Church

        • Our Lord has a special love for the sick and the dying.
        • T he infirm and dying are called to be united intimately to Christ’s own Passion.
        • The union with the suffering Christ is the most important work within the Church.  It is both the meaning of the Mass (we are united to His Passion) and expressed through a special sacrament, the anointing of the sick.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world in order to suffer and offer His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). At the heart of His own offering is the acceptance of the consequence of sin, the consequence for rejecting God who is the source of life, so that through His wounds He might draw the wounded to Himself (John 3:15). The one who suffers and offers their suffering graciously to God both receives the life of the Crucified and is intimately united to His Passion and the work of salvation. Christ has a special love for His members who are suffering and has even given a special sacrament, the anointing of the sick, to reveal and communicate this tender love that He has for them. Those who are suffering, because of this union with Christ, have a special union with His passion and therefore great potential to bring grace to others through that union.  We are all called to work for the salvation of the world through our work, but those who are suffering are especially equipped to lead others to salvation.

As beautiful as this may be, that suffering is transformed to be salvific in the light of the Cross, this is not easy!  There are many temptations that are contrary to this exalted understanding of suffering.  The Church and families of the ill, infirm and dying have a very important role to play so that the person may always remember that they are loved, remembered and wanted.  We are called to accompany Christ in His Passion, and to accompany those who are united to the Way of the Cross by being present with them, praying with them and loving them selflessly. Even if the person is unable to respond, the proclamation of the Word of God and the promises that Christ makes are always beneficial.  Praying the rosary, reading scripture, praying the divine mercy chaplet, and other prayers are beneficial for those who are ill.  In a particular way, some of the psalms (22, 23, 42, 80 etc.) and especially the gospel John 13-17 (Christ’s words to His disciples shortly before He dies) are beautiful reflections that inspire faith and make hope more firm.

If Someone is Ill, When Should I Call the Church?

When in doubt, call the church!  The ministry to the sick is one of the most important ministries in the Church. If someone is not able to come to Mass because of old age, serious illness, or injury whether they are in the hospital or at home- please call the rectory, (703) 525-1300, and let us know. That way we can insure that they receive the sacraments (the Eucharist, confession and anointing), we can include them in the prayers at Sunday Mass, and may include other parishioners to go and pray with them.

If you would like to assist in visiting the elderly of the parish, please contact the parish to discuss that possibility.

Basic Catechesis on the Anointing of the Sick

“Is anyone among you sick?  He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14) This command comes to us from the Apostle James and is part of our revealed faith.  Based upon this command, the Church has continued to anoint the sick with a special sacrament revealing Christ’s love for them. St. James tells us that the person will be saved, and the Lord will raise them up. Both of these terms within Biblical language refer to the salvation that we find in Christ and the resurrection in His life that we already share in by baptism and which will come to more perfect realization on the Last Day. Thus, the person who is sick, through the anointing, receives a greater share in the Life of Christ.

The anointing of the sick has three consequences:

  • First, the sacrament makes the person an offering to God in union with the suffering Christ. The offering is revealed when the priest lays his hands on the person calling down the Holy Spirit similar to the Mass when hands are placed over the offering that the bread and wine may be transformed into Christ and His offering.
  • Second, the one suffering receives Christ’s strength in bearing the Cross, so that they may hold fast to faith in the midst of trials.
  • Third, if the sacrament of confession cannot be celebrated, sin is forgiven.

Although rarely possible, it is most fitting that the anointing of the sick be celebrated in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Last rites, as they are sometimes called, include the celebration of confession, viaticum (literally “food for the way” it is the reception of communion before death), and anointing. Usually if someone’s death seems imminent, the apostolic pardon is also conferred.  The apostolic pardon is an indulgence given by the Church for the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. Truly a great grace!

Scripture and the Anointing of the Sick

We have already seen that James (5:14) commands this sacrament.  As an apostle, His teaching in relation to Christ is certain. We also see that Christ sends out His disciples to anoint the sick (Mark 6:13) in order to heal them.  he healing that Christ brings, however, is principally the healing of the soul.  Through His own miracles He desires that people should come to faith and enter into an intimate relationship with God. In the scripture, Christ brings physical and spiritual healing and strength and the Church as His body continues to accomplish the work of Christ primarily in the spiritual realm, but likewise through hospitals and other means in our service to the suffering.  In the gospels we see repeatedly Christ’s love and tenderness for the suffering and that tenderness continues on through the ministry of the Church through various means, but especially through the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

Prayer in the Face of Suffering

Seeing a loved one suffer can be one of the most difficult and painful experiences in our lives. Losing a parent, or even more, losing a child or a sibling at any age can test our faith and wound our hearts.  Yet, through the sorrow that we experience we are able to open our hearts to Christ and His sorrowful mother in new ways, and be transformed by the consoling presence of God’s Spirit.  We will not always understand why a loved one is suffering.  All the more it is important to turn to God as a loving Father, and trust that He can bring good out of all things, even as He has promised and accomplished in the Cross of Christ.

It is important that we pray during this time both for and with the person suffering.  Also, devotion to the Eucharist is an essential aspect of our prayer.  The Eucharist is Jesus Christ, and in Him we are united together. The reception of the Eucharist unites us bodily to Christ in the promise of bodily resurrection. The Eucharist is our means to be united to the community of heaven and those in purgatory because our union with Christ through the sacrament forms us to be one body in our Lord. Devotion to the Eucharist and zeal for Christ Crucified allows us to enter more deeply into friendship and union with God, and that relationship is what sustains us in the midst of suffering. Our presence with those who are suffering often assists them with the spiritual strength that only love can confer, revealing through practical love, the abiding tenderness of our loving God.

As indicated throughout, the Gospel of John is recommended, particularly chapters 13-17. The words of our Lord are consoling and profound and ground us in the faith and hope that is expressed through love.  I would also like to recommend three other devotions that prepare us for death:

  • Place a crucifix and a candle or two, if possible, near the bed of the dying person. Not only is it a visible sign of faith in Christ, it also creates a holy space when the priest or Eucharistic minister brings Holy Communion.
  • The devotion of the Brown Scapular if worn faithfully bears with it the promise of Our Lady that the person will be assisted by a priest at the hour of death.
  • Pray the Rosary at the bedside of the dying person.

The following resources likewise may be helpful during this difficult time.