Sacrament of the Sick

What actually is the sacrament of the sick

First of all, it is a Sacrament. Only the living can receive sacraments. The Sacrament of the Sick is, rather unfortunately, one of the most misunderstood sacraments among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Often Priests get called to anoint a person who has "just died", which sadly means that it is too late for this person to be anointed or receive Viaticum (meaning spiritual food for the journey in Holy Communion)

Like all the sacraments, holy anointing was instituted by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry. The Catechism explains, “This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord” (CCC 1511; Mark 6:13; Jas. 5:14-15). 

So the sacrament of the sick is meant to heal the sick?

Some go to extremes in their expectation of divine healing. On one hand, some claim that divine healings were only for the apostolic age, when all diseases were healed instantly and automatically. Others say that if a Christian is not healed of all his diseases, this reflects his lack of faith. Both extreme views are of course not true. God does not always heal the physical infirmities that afflict us.

If God can heal us, why doesn’t he? Why isn’t it always his will to do so? One answer to this question is found in the spiritual discipline and training that can result from facing illness and adversity. Scripture says, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:7, 11). 

God also uses our suffering to help others. If Paul had not become ill while on his first missionary journey and been forced to stop traveling, he would not have preached to the Galatians, for he tells them, “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first” (Gal. 4:13). God used Paul’s illness to bring salvation to the Galatians and to bring us a work of Scripture, through which we are still receiving benefits from God.

This is just one example of how God used suffering to bring about good. Therefore, if we suffer, we should look upon it as an opportunity for good, such as by offering up our sufferings for our own sanctification and for our departed brothers and sisters in Christ.

We have a sick family member. what do we do?

If the patient is in hospital, ask a nurse to call the Catholic Chaplain. It is always helpful to notify Hospital Chaplains BEFOREHAND where Catholics have been admitted. Importantly, the Sacrament of the Sick is not only for those on the point of death – as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger from sickness or old age, the appropriate time to receive this sacrament has certainly arrived. Do not delay, therefore, in calling the priest when a person is taken ill. 

The most important part of the last rites is the reception of the Lord in one’s final Communion, also called “Viaticum” (Latin: that which you take on the road, i.e., provisions for a journey) This special Communion prepares us to travel with the Lord on the final part of our journey. 


A priest is available to administer the sacraments 24/7. If in hospital, please tell a nurse to contact the On-Call Catholic Chaplain. If at home, please call 01642 597750 and ask for Canon Paul Farrer to come and anoint the person in question. Be assured, he will come as quickly as possible no matter what time you ring.