Dying without being anointed
If we die without the sacrament of anointing are we to expect an absence of the grace God gives us so freely? Is this another Catholic Sacrament that seems to be just one of a group of seven that we learned about during catechetical instructions and like confirmation it became another incident we were expected to use but left it on the shelf with teaching manuals.
Each time one of my relatives or a close friend is in the hospital or contracts a serious disease the first response is asking for a priest for an anointing. Unfortunately too many people forget or don’t remember this sacrament that may be used as many times as we want. Just like the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist it is a reservoir of Sacramental Grace.
When I was 12 years old a fall chipping my knee cap on one leg put me in the hospital with an infection and the doctors could not lance it because of the possibility of the infection going to my heart. My parents were beside themselves with concern, My father, who was a good man but rarely went to church. He was a convert but was supportive of Catholic attendance for my mother and me. During the night, after the doctor told my parents I had a 50/50 chance of dying, I remember waking up and saw a priest standing over me wearing a stole and a candle by my bed. He was reading from a small book and I knew I was being given Extreme Unction. I had recently received confirmation and was aware of the sacrament.
I fell back to sleep and the next thing I woke up calling my mother, who stayed all night, saying I was all wet.The infection broke and the healing of the sacrament did what it was designed to accomplish. Before I forget, my father, again not a religious man, used to play numbers with bookies (this was during the 1940’s) and said to God “if you give me back my son I’ll quit playing the numbers” He was addicted to this. I was healed and he absolutely quit this addiction. During the funeral mass for my father I used this in the homily. A sacrament and a covenant with God.
Throughout the years that followed I have seen many persons quickly heal using this sacrament. However, a few women I was close to either through the Charismatic movement or just close family ties that after an anointing mass still died. Remember, this is a sacrament of healing but many times the healing comes via spiritual blessings and the healing follows us into eternity.
We can depend on grace for everything that is needed for a sacramental life. Being blessed to be Roman Catholic is the most significant part of Christianity. Where else can we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, be forgiven Sacramentally, and share in the spiritual healing of a gift before we meet with the Lord when we pass through the veil of this life into God’s presence.
Ralph B. Hathaway