PCS 108-110: Anointing With a Large Congregation

Many Catholics are exposed to this sacrament through anointing that takes place at Mass in their parishes. Do you want to see how these measure up to the provisions of the rite?

108. The rites for anointing outside Mass and anointing within Mass may be used to anoint a number of people within the same celebration. These rites are appropriate for large gatherings of a diocese, parish, or society for the sick, or for pilgrimages. These celebrations should take place in a church, chapel, or other appropriate place where the sick and others can easily gather. On occasion, they may also take place in hospitals and other institutions.


I wonder how often these rites take place outside of parish initiative. Anybody live in a diocese with regular services for anointing of the sick? What about pilgrimages?

Do you realize that anointing may tale place on a large scale without the celebration of Mass? How often do you suppose this is done? I’ve never seen it or heard of it in my years as a liturgist.

The church is the most appropriate place for this form of anointing, but with Roman practicality, a hospital or other institution may be used if pastoral circumstances dictate.

If the Ordinary decides that many people are to be anointed in the same celebration, either he or his delegate should ensure that all discipli­nary norms concerning anointing are observed, as well as the norms for pastoral preparation and liturgical celebration. In particular, the practice of indiscriminately anointing numbers of people on these occasions simply because they are ill or have reached an advanced age is to be avoided. Only those whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age are proper subjects for the sacrament. The Ordinary also designates the priests who will take part in the celebration of the sacrament.


The bishop is responsible, either in person or through a representative, to ensure norms are followed. I wonder if this is due more to the novelty of anointing with a large congregation or a more general suspicion that parish clergy and their liturgists may not be up to speed on what the Church intends in these celebrations. Note the bishop also designates the clergy who will anoint. I’m not aware this takes place at all, if it ever did.

The rite does note that people shouldn’t be anointed just because they happen to be in attendance. My home parish, way back in the seventies, did well with two weeks of advance catechesis, including the homily. But they did poorly by inviting nearly everybody to receive the sacrament.


The full participation of those present must be fostered by every means, especially through the use of appropriate songs, so that the cele­bration manifests the Easter joy which is proper to this sacrament.


Participation, in this instance “full,” is to be encouraged. Note that music, particularly “songs,” not psalms or acclamations, are given particular notice. Note also that “Easter joy” is to be expressed in the anointing liturgy, a good hint for the selection of “songs.”


109. The communal rite begins with a greeting followed by a reception of the sick, which is a sympathetic expression of Christ’s concern for those who are ill and of the role of the sick in the people of God. Before the rite of dismissal the blessing is given. The celebration may conclude with an appropriate song.


110. If there are large numbers of sick people to be anointed, other priests may assist the celebrant. Each priest lays hands on some of the sick and anoints them, using the sacramental form. Everything else is done once for all, and the prayers are said in the plural by the celebrant. After the sacramental form has been heard at least once by those present, suitable songs may be sung while the rest of the sick are being anointed.



Music may accompany the anointing of the sick. One might assume these would be congregational songs, given the emphasis on “full” participation. Clearly, the rite offers a preference for vocal music over instrumental.

Any comments of your own?


Later we’ll look at this ritual reception of the sick (PCS 135) to find it a bit of a mini-homily on the purpose of the celebration adding a nod to those who will receive the sacrament. Note that a concluding song is optional, but included as a possibility within the rite.

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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