PCS 104-107: Three Aspects

In a subsection titled, “Celebrating the Sacrament of Anointing,” the rite gives a detailed description of the “distinct and integral” parts of the sacramental celebration:

104.     There are three distinct and integral aspects to the celebration of this sacrament: the prayer of faith, the laying on of hands, and the anointing with oil.


105.     Prayer of faith: The community, asking God’s help for the sick, makes its prayer of faith in response to God’s word and in a spirit of trust (see James 5:14-15). In the rites for the sick, it is the people of God who pray in faith. The entire Church is made present in this community-represented by at least the priest, family, friends, and others-assembled to pray for those to be anointed. If they are able, the sick persons should also join in this prayer.


106.     Laying on of hands: The gospels contain a number of instances in which Jesus healed the sick by the laying on of hands or even by the simple gesture of touch. The ritual has restored to major significance the gesture of the laying on of hands with its several meanings. With this ges­ture the priest indicates that this particular person is the object of the Churchs prayer of faith. The laying on of hands is clearly a sign of bless­ing, as we pray that by the power of God’s healing grace the sick person may be restored to health or at least strengthened in time of illness. The laying on of hands is also an invocation: the Church prays for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the sick person. Above all, it is the biblical gesture of healing and indeed Jesus own usual manner of healing: “They brought the sick with various diseases to him; and he laid hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40).


107.     Anointing with oil: The practice of anointing the sick with oil signi­fies healing, strengthening, and the presence of the Spirit.


In the gospel of Mark the disciples were sent out by the Lord to con­tinue his healing ministry: “They anointed many sick people with oil and cured them (Mark 6:13). And Saint James witnesses to the fact that the Church continued to anoint the sick with oil as both a means and sign of healing (James 5:14). The Church’s use of oil for healing is closely related to its remedial use in soothing and comforting the sick and in restoring the tired and the weak. Thus the sick person is strengthened to fight against the physically and spiritually debilitating effects of illness. The prayer for blessing the oil of the sick reminds us, furthermore, that the oil of anointing is the sacramental sign of the presence, power, and grace of the Holy Spirit.


If the anointing is to be an effective sacramental symbol, there should be a generous use of oil so that it will be seen and felt by the sick person as a sign of the Spirits healing and strengthening presence. For the same reason, it is not desirable to wipe off the oil after the anointing.

Commentary, especially on some of the solid post-conciliar liturgical principles are described in these sections:

PCS 105 emphasizes the role of the community: responding in faith to the Word of God, participating in the rite. This includes the person being ministered to. Partnership and collaboration with the ordained clergy is a hallmark of Vatican II liturgy, including an active role for the person being attended to directly by the sacramental process.

Note the importance of Scripture, not only for liturgy, but in the catechesis on the sacrament and its elements.

PCS 107 notes that oil of the sick, like the sacred chrism, is the sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

The last paragraph of section 107 reminds us of the quality of generosity: enough oil should be used “so that it will be seen and felt.” Basic incarnational Christianity: make the experience sensory and significant.

Unlike the pre-conciliar rite of Extreme Unction, and some of the more curious parts of the PCS calling for introductory or concluding rituals to be done privately, this is how Catholic liturgy should be celebrated: with due attention to details, a pastoral sensitivity, and a basic appreciation for the role of the laity as active participants, not passive recipients.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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