Catholic practices

The Sacrament of the Sick

It is our general practice that when a baptised Catholic who has made their first Communion is seen by a priest, he or she will be offered the Sacrament of the Sick. 

This is a sacrament of healing: it reaches out to those who are sick and draws them into the heart of the Church. It is also given to those who are about to die, which is why it is sometimes known as ‘Extreme Unction’ or ‘The Last Rites’ (‘the sacrament of those departing’) and it is often accompanied by Holy Communion as Viaticum. 

Sickness, pain and death were not written into God’s original plan for mankind. Part of Jesus’ ministry was to heal the sick, and he went about curing those who were ill or disabled. Jesus came to announce that the kingdom of God was now a reality here on earth. One of the signs of this reality was that the sick were healed and the dead raised up, because suffering and death can have no place in the kingdom of God. This Sacrament by its very nature also forgives any sins that may have been committed. 

The anointing of the sick is the ultimate healing sacrament, available whenever our health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age. God is always with us in our illness, loving us into health of mind, body and soul. Through our faith we know that we will have life forever.

A Sign of Life

Some people have the idea that this sacrament is rather like the sign of death or approaching death – that it is only offered when all hope is lost. In fact the reverse is true; it is a sign of life, the eternal life promised by Jesus Christ, here and now as well as in the future. Christ came to show us how we can have life to the full in whatever situation we find ourselves. His Spirit, active and dynamic in our sickness and frailty as well as in
our health and strength, is a real presence.

 The sacrament of the sick confirms this in a tangible way. God is with the sick person now, nothing is more certain than that. Throughout his life Jesus loved people so deeply and completely that they were healed of whatever was destroying them, whether that was physical or mental illness, or emotional or spiritual suffering.

Prayer of Charles de Foucault

‘Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you I am ready for all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. Amen.’

Old Age

The frailty of old age is recognised too. An old person may not be ill but the years do impose burdens upon the elderly which can be difficult to adjust to and which can make the older person feel isolated and at times very lonely. Again, this sacrament helps and strengthens the Christian in this stage of life so that they can continue to be part of the family of God as actively as possible, for older people have so much to offer younger Christians.

Consent

If you have given your consent or asked to be visited by a member of the chaplaincy team when you were admitted to the hospital, we will be aware of your presence (via the Hospital Information System) and will aim to offer you every spiritual assistance.

We are most grateful for the ecumenical cooperation we enjoy at Addenbrooke’s especially in the light of the diminishing number of Catholic priests available in the parish context and the increasing pressures on those who are in the parish settings.

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