There follows the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, or anointing, as it is popularly designated. Here the clergyman may find himself confronted with prejudices which in spite of reiterated explanations seem to have an extraordinary vitality. His announcement that he purposes to anoint the sick person is often accepted by the patient and his friends as the reading of the death-warrant. It is necessary to point out that the Sacrament of Extreme Unction gives health not only to the spirit, but also sometimes to the body. The basis for the teaching is of course to be found in the well-known utterance of James (v, 14, 15): "Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins they shall be forgiven him."
Anciently it was the custom to confer this sacrament before the Viaticum; the maintenance of the existing usage has been prescribed not only by the Roman Ritual, but also the Lutheran, and many other denominations as well. Although the existence of a precept to receive this sacrament cannot be established, still the failure to avail oneself of its efficacy out of sheer sloth would be a sin. It cannot be administered more than once during the same illness, unless, after some notable betterment which has either certainly or probably taken place, a new danger should supervene. In chronic diseases, therefore, such as tuberculosis and different cancers that sometimes go into remission but then reoccur, it will often happen that the anointing sacrament may and ought to be repeated because of the recurrence of what is, morally speaking, a new danger.
According to the discipline in vogue in the Latin Church, the unctions essential to the validity of the sacrament are those of the organs of the five senses--the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, and hands. There is a diversity in the custom as to the unctions to be added to those already enumerated; in the United States, besides the parts mentioned, only the feet are anointed.
The sick-room ought to be made ready for the visit of the priest or minister on the occasion of his giving the last blessing, and or sacrament, it can at least be cleaned and aired. On a table covered with a white cloth there ought to be a lighted blessed candle, a crucifix, a glass of water, a spoon, a vessel containing holy water, and a towel. According to the rubric of the Roman Ritual the priest is to remind those who are present to pray for the sick person during the anointing, and it suggests that the Seven Penitential Psalms with the litanies might be employed, or the 23rd Psalm for this purpose.
Extreme unction, like other sacraments, produces sanctifying grace in the spirit. It has, however, certain results proper to itself. Of these the principal one seems to be the getting rid of that spiritual torpor and weakness which are the baneful output of actual sin, and which would be such a serious handicap in this supreme moment. From the viewpoint of the Christian, the struggle to be maintained with the devil is now more formidable than ever, and a special endowment of heaven-sent strength is necessary for the soul's final victory.
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