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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Questions & Answers About Anointing of the Sick

Does the Bible say anything about priests praying over the sick and anointing them with oil?

It most certainly does say something about this. “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [priests] 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” (James 5:14-15). We also find this passage in Mark 6:12 where the apostles “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”

Is not the authority of the Letter of James rather dubious?

No, Christianity has acknowledged this book from Scripture from the earliest days. It is absolutely authentic, inspired and truthful. Only in the sixteenth century, namely with the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, was it rejected since it contradicted his views regarding the unimportance of works in our salvation.

Have not some rightly argued that James meant faith by his use of the word “oil”?

Such a contention is silly. If James had meant faith, instead of oil, he would have said so plainly. His teaching reflected the practice of the apostles in anointing the sick with oil. This practice comes all the way through the centuries to today. It is an olive oil blessed by the bishop, usually on Holy Thursday.

What other sacraments are associated with that of anointing?

When applied to the dying, the anointing of the sick has been called Extreme Unction. If the person is conscious, it is usual for them to go to confession first. If not, the presumption is made that they would like the sacrament and are sorry for their sins. Certainly, if aware and able, any serious sins should be confessed. Following the anointing, and again if possible, the sick person would receive Holy Communion. These three sacraments are sometimes called the Last Rites.

How is it administered?

The sacrament is offered by the priest who first lays his hands upon the head of the person. Then, anointing the forehead and hands, he prays: “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.] May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. [Amen.]

What are the effects?

It forgives some sins, remits temporal punishment due to sin, gives assistance to patiently suffer and to die a holy death, grants strength against the devil’s temptations, and sometimes even restores physical health.

How should a room be traditionally prepared for these sacraments to the infirm?

A table is covered with a white cloth. A small crucifix stands between two candles. Along with these items, holy water and a glass of ordinary water may also be placed upon the table.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.