“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. 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.” (James 5:13-15)
Christ’s compassion for the sick and His many healing miracles are a sure sign that God has visited His people and the Kingdom of God has come. Today the church continues the healing ministry of Jesus through it’s pastoral care of the sick and dying. The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is not only for those who are dying. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.” (C.C.C. 1515)
The first grace of this sacrament is one of restoring strength and health. But if that is not possible then it brings the grace of peace and courage to meet the difficulties that go with serious illness or frailty to fight the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.
In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the church offers those who are dying the Eucharist as Viaticum, i.e., food for the journey. The Eucharist is the seed of eternal life according to the words of Christ: “He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54)
To arrange for a person who is hospitalized to receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, call the Pastoral Care Department of the hospital and request that the Catholic Chaplain anoint that person. Local Hospital numbers: Somerset Hospital, 908-685-2200; St Peter’s University Hospital, 732-745-8600; Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, 732-828-3000. Likewise, the Pastoral Care Department at most Nursing Homes can arrange for a Catholic Priest to visit or to arrange for a priest to anoint someone in their home, call the parish center at 908-725-1112 or outside business hours at 908-725-9834. The priests and deacons visit Somerset Hospital weekly and are also available to visit parishioners or anyone in an emergency. Always inform the church when a parishioner is hospitalized or home bound so that we can arrange for a priest, a deacon, or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and provide the appropriate level of pastoral care.