Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

October 31, 2018

History of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

During Jesus' life and after his Ascension to heaven, his disciples anointed and laid hands on those were sick in order to heal them. Share this brief timeline of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick from the third century forward.

ca. 215: The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus described how at Mass, a bishop blessed the oil of the sick (olive or another plant oil), praying that the oil would bring strength to all anointed with it. Christians regarded their blessed oil as an especially effective remedy and a sign of God’s presence.

ca. 416: Pope Innocent I described in a letter how blessed oil was used for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

428: St. Cyril of Alexandria warned Christians not to turn to pagan magicians and sorcerers when they were sick. Instead, they were to turn to God’s healing through the bishop and presbyters of the Church.

1551: The Council of Trent affirmed that “only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick” (CCC, 1516).

1965: The Second Vatican Council wrote that “‘Extreme Unction,’ which may also and more fittingly be called ‘Anointing of the Sick,’ is not a sacrament intended only for those who are at the point of death. . . . [A]s soon as any of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, this is already a suitable time for them to receive this sacrament.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 73)

Assignments

  • Define oil of the sick and Extreme Unction.
  • Research and write a two-page report on one or more religious communities whose primary apostolate is to care for the sick and suffering.
  • Interview a doctor, nurse, or someone in the medical field. Ask his or her opinion on the role of the the Spirit and prayer in the healing process. Write a one-page report detailing the results of the interview.

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