256 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SACRAMENT
FOR THE COMMUNITY
For some, there is nothing more frustrating than being sick. Sickness runs
from annoying inconvenience—like a headache or a common cold—to
grave, life-threatening cases involving major surgery or incurable dis-
ease. In each case, sickness reminds us of our limitations.
Our reaction to infirmity is to seek alleviation. With a perfect under-
standing of the human person, Christ has provided the Church from its
beginning with a spiritual as well as a corporeal remedy for our illness.
We are not just flesh and bone. We are spirit, mind, and body.
In a very real sense, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has
a very important community dimension. In any illness, particularly
one as we near the end of our lives, we should never have to stand
alone. We should not have to face infirmity without the consolation
of others. In the New Testament’s Letter of St. James, the sick person
is instructed to call for the presbyters (priests) of the Church for an
anointing and prayers.
These presbyters represented the Christian community and its
concern for the sick person. Such concern is further highlighted in the
“prayer of faith” that St. James said will reclaim the one who is ill—
the prayer arising from the community of faith, the Church, gathered
around the sick person precisely to invoke the “name of the Lord.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church
reminds us that “the
Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, whether
it takes place in a family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick
person or a whole group of sick persons” (CCC, no. 1517).
Increasingly today, there is an effort to bring people together for
a communal celebration of this Sacrament, usually in a parish church.
Since infirmity and old age constitute legitimate reasons for receiving
this Sacrament, a parish can easily provide a setting for a number of
parishioners to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick regu-
larly. It can serve the purpose of the Sacrament and, at the same time,
build up the faith of the community itself.