A person can receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick many times during the course of his or her life.
During old age or whenever there is a surgery, life-threatening illness, or serious condition, the person is a proper candidate to receive the Anointing. Pastorally, for the infirm or shut-ins, the sacrament should be administered every six months.
Many Catholics who are confined to their homes have a “sick call” kit. This kit includes a crucifix, a candle, altar linen, and holy water. When the priest comes to visit the person’s home, these articles should be placed on a table in preparation for Holy Communion and Anointing, usually on the first Friday of the month.
The tradition of receiving Holy Communion on first Friday derives from the private revelation of the sacred heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary, a seventeenth century visitation nun. Part of the revelation asked for nine consecutive first Friday receptions.
It is quite traditional for the priest to bring the holy oils and the Eucharist for the shut-in. The priest will light the candle because whenever our Eucharistic Lord is present there should be at least one candle lit in celebration. Holy water is sprinkled to remind the person that in Baptism she was called to be a saint.
Finally, the linen is used to place the pyx, which contains the Blessed Sacrament. The priest then may hear the person’s Confession, administer the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, and distribute Holy Communion. All in all, the person feels the support of Jesus and the mystical body of Christ the Church through such visits.
Communal celebrations of the sacrament take place in the parish church, usually once or twice a year. These celebrations are important since they may be the only times when shut-ins may come to the Church. Special care is always taken with parish nurses, doctors, and members of a men’s group on hand in case of an emergency. Communal celebration of Anointing is a great way to support the elderly and infirm and let them know that not only God but the community, which is the mystical body of Christ, cares for them.
Saint Paul emphasizes this beautiful analogy of the Church as the mystical body. Christ is the head, and the baptized are the body. When one of the members of the body is sick, the whole body is sick. This is why great care is given to the elderly and infirmed. Anointing of the Sick at Mass in the parish church emphasizes the communal responsibility and spiritual work of mercy to pray for the sick.