Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the “priests” of the church, and let them pray over him.
When a Catholic is very sick, the Church anoints the person with oil in a special ritual of healing called Anointing of the Sick.
Traditionally referred to as Extreme Unction or Last Rites, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is administered both to the dying and to those who are gravely ill or are about to undergo a serious operation, for the recovery of their health and for spiritual strength. It is a ritual of healing appropriate not only for physical but also for mental and spiritual sickness.
This sacrament is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and proclaimed by St James. This rite is one way in which the Church continues the healing ministry of Jesus.
The healing offered by this anointing is forgiveness of sins, hope and inner peace, sometimes physical healing, and an assurance of God’s steadfast care, even in death.
In the past, this sacrament was often kept strictly for those close to death. In more recent years the Church has encouraged greater use of this sacrament for illness which is not necessarily life-threatening. As with all the sacraments, this anointing has significance for the whole Church. It reminds us of our call to wholeness and our call to be a sign of salvation to the world.
Wherever there is brokenness, we are to be instruments of Christ’s healing touch.
A person may be anointed before surgery or medical treatment, and at other times by request to one of the clergy.
For more reading, cfr Catechism of the Catholic Church.