Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Anne

What do we know about Saint Anne? It is true that Holy Scripture reports nothing on her life, that we look for her name there in vain. But we know that Saint Anne is the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Christ. That alone is a source of inexhaustible significance.

We also know--and this with great certainty--the main episodes of Saint Anne’s earthly life. These have been gathered from various apocryphal sources, some of which dating back to the very beginning of Christianity (the ProtoEvangelium of Saint James is from the year 150 A.D.).

There is, moreover, the story of the numerous shrines dedicated to Saint Anne throughout Christendom; particularly the story of the Shrine of Beaupré, Canada. Beaupré is a sort of earthly prolongation of Saint Anne’s life, like her dwelling place amongst men. At Beaupré, seemingly more than anywhere else in the world, our Saint has showered forth marvelous graces and blessings. She is in her Basilica, in her Miraculous Statue, in her Relics, in her Fountain, etc., with a presence which is doubtless spiritual, but which, on certain occasions, becomes well nigh tangible, so greatly do her marvelous interventions multiply in number.

Finally, there is the story of so many Christian men and women, upon whom Saint Anne has heaped countless favors, whom she has visited with her marvels. That also belongs in the life of our Saint, because it remains her tireless occupation to faithfully care for her clients upon earth, leading them ever closer to her Immaculate Daughter Mary, and to Jesus, at the same time Her Grandson and Her God.

Birth, Childhood, and Marriage of St. Anne

In the land of Judea, fifty years before the coming of Christ, there lived a husband and wife of great virtue. Their names were Stolan and Emerentiana. They lived the lives of fervent Israelites, faithful to the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. Their most ardent prayer to God was that they would soon rejoice in the coming of the Desired of all Nations, the heavenly Messiah of Whom the Patriarchs and Prophets had spoken, and Whose coming was at hand.

Soon there was born to them a daughter whom they named Anne, which means all gracious, all beautiful. The child began, from the first dawn of reason, to live her name, inspired as it was by Heaven. Docile and attentive to her parents, gentle and kind towards her playmates, at once lively and devout, it was clear that God had great plans for her.

As the charming maiden grew older, many young men sought her hand in marriage. But all these advances she refused, until she was reverently approached by a young man named Joachim. Like her, he was of the royal house of David, and also like her, he was virtuous and just. By Divine inspiration she knew that God had chosen him as her spouse.

According to the Hebrew custom, St. Anne could only have been fourteen or fifteen years old when she was betrothed to St. Joachim, for this was the age at which the daughters of Israel usually married. Thus it was common for a woman to be a grandmother at the age of thirty. Joachim's young wife left her father's home and endeavored, by her love and devotedness, to make her own home a happy one.
Trial in the Life of St. Anne

In spite of their frequent prayers and exceptionally virtuous lives, Anne and Joachim were childless. For the Israelites, the privilege of motherhood was sharing in the blessing which the Lord bestowed on Abraham and his descendants when He promised him that the Messiah would be born to his posterity.

This, then, was a terrible trial, which weighed upon the home of Anne and Joachim for twenty long years. But their tranquil acceptance of this heavy cross and humble endurance of their shame in a spirit of patience and prayer is a wonderful testimony to their holiness and resignation to the holy will of God.

At length, in a miraculous manner, the entreaties of Anne and Joachim were heard. An Angel appeared to each of them, announcing that their holy marriage would at last bring forth a child, one blessed by God. St. Joachim returned to his home, and St. Anne soon knew that she was going to become a mother.

Although Holy Scripture is silent on these miraculous happenings, we are informed of them by very ancient tradition. These circumstances closely resemble what the Bible tells us of Anna, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and regarding the parents of St. John the Baptist. But in the case of St. Anne, it concerns an affair of even greater significance than the birth of a prophet. St. Anne was called to be the very mother of she who is the Mother of God. Reason itself tells us that her Conception and Birth would be attended by an unprecedented flood of graces and privileges, proper to the awesome role she would play in the very life of God Himself.

Mother Of Her Who Was Conceived Immaculate

Saint Anne was the inner sanctuary in which was formed the living tabernacle which was to house the Son of God made Man. The solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception provides us with even greater insight into the wonderful dignity of St. Anne.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary took place in the womb of St. Anne, thus making it her own, just as the Incarnation of the God-Man by the power of the Holy Ghost took place within the chaste womb of Mary. Of course, the difference between the two is great, but there is a close parallel: the Immaculate Mother who was to be the Mother of God was formed of the flesh and blood of St. Anne, as the God-Man was formed of the flesh and blood of Mary. In both cases, the Holy Ghost entered in and worked a tremendous miracle of grace.

The operation of the Holy Ghost in the womb of St. Elizabeth was also a great miracle of grace, when Our Lady brought her chaste spouse and her Divine Son to her cousin, on the day of the Visitation. But this was a lesser miracle than that performed in the womb of St. Anne, since St. John the Baptist was freed from Original Sin within his mother's womb after six months, whereas the spotless Child in the womb of St. Anne was never tainted with the slightest sin.

At the moment of Conception, St. Anne and St. Joachim gave to Mary, who soon would transmit them to Jesus, the flesh and blood which they had received from their forefathers. But this flesh and this blood which they had received soiled by Original Sin, they handed on to their child without any stain. Bossuet could say: "The Conception of Mary (in which Anne and Joachim took part) is the first and original source of the Blood of Jesus, which flows in our veins through the Sacraments, and which brings the breath of life to every part of the Mystical Body of Christ--the Church."

The Blessed Virgin Mary was Immaculate at her Conception; and in consequence, her father and mother were the ministers of God in accomplishing a work which will remain unique forever in the history of mankind.

There we see the basis for the glory of Saint Anne. To create angels and men, the Blessed Trinity, so to speak, sought no assistance from outside Itself. In accomplishing the Immaculate Conception, that same Blessed Trinity summoned to its aid the two who would be the mother and father of the Blessed Virgin. By that act, there was conferred upon them a character of singular grandeur.

We cannot speak of the Incarnate Word without at the same time mentioning her whom God chose to be His Mother. Failing to do so, as the Fathers of the Church prove, opens the door to heretical attacks upon the very Person of Christ. So too, to speak of the Immaculate Conception without mentioning St. Anne, who so wonderfully participated in this admirable creation, would be to minimize the dignity and grandeur of the Mother of God.

The Birth Of Mary

Like many of his holy ancestors, including King David himself, St. Joachim, spouse of Saint Anne, was a shepherd. It was in the mountains of Galilee, near Nazareth, that his flocks were pastured.

The home of St. Joachim and St. Anne was simple. It was, as was customary in Judea, partly hollowed out of the rock which, in that part of the city of Jerusalem, rose up in the form of an amphitheater towards the city wall, partly enclosed by a wall of masonry.

Only a few hundred feet from the Holy Temple, almost in the shadow of its magnificent dome, close by the Pool of Siloe, within a white-walled dwelling, Anna, wife of Joachim, brought forth a beautiful little daughter.

The hour that now struck was the holiest and the happiest since the creation of the world. Life went on in Jerusalem as if nothing had happened. Yet, in the eyes of God, the Child whom Anne had just brought into the world changed the appearance of the universe. In this tiny infant, more pure and holy than all the choirs of angels, God already saw His Mother soon to be.

Who can ever tell the joy Saint Anne felt the day the Immaculate Virgin was born, that day blessed above all days, that day which would result in her becoming the grandmother of Christ!

The Presentation Of Mary In The Temple

A few days after the blessed birth of their child, her parents gave her the name of Mary.

Now the little Mary was growing beneath the shelter of Angels’ wings and under the tender care of her mother. Saint Anne carried out that service of love and devotion which the Christian artists have so often and so admirably portrayed, the Education of the holy Infant Mary. We are told that, while enlightened directly by Almighty God in all that concerned the supernatural, the child was introduced by her mother to earthly knowledge and experience.

She would learn to work, to read. As she grew older, Mary would learn the work of housekeeping; she sewed, she embroidered, she wove cloth, and sacred vestments. When Mary had reached the age of three years, her parents revealed to her their intention of taking her to the Temple, to offer her to the Lord.

It is the teaching of theologians that Mary received the full use of reason from the first moment of her life. So it was not a mere child of three years who, at the Presentation in the Temple, consecrated herself to the Eternal Father, but rather the best and most pleasing oblation yet made by any living creature to the Creator. On that blessed day, accompanied by her mother and father, this little girl of three passed through the entrance of the Temple, and then, all alone, according to tradition, climbed the fifteen steps which led to the Court of the Women. On these steps, the High Priest Zachary, who was awaiting her, took the little child in his arms, offered her to the Lord. And the young girl, with full knowledge of her action, gave herself entirely to the love and service of God.

Saint Anne, Spouse Of St. Joachim

While St. Joachim watched his flocks or tended his vines, Saint Anne prepared the meals and saw to the care of their household.

After the birth of Mary, there was more work, but even more supernatural joy in their holy home. None of them escaped the weariness, the difficulties of life, but each of them was full of consideration for the others. Together they endured their trials, together they prayed, together they took their rest, each striving to please the others, and to please God above all things.

Each of the thousand trifles which made up Saint Anne’s daily life was more pleasing in the sight of the Lord than a whole world at work or at prayer, for Saint Anne put into these trifles which made up her life more love of God and of her neighbor than the rest of the world could ever have done.

In the eyes of the world, the life of Saint Anne was woven from a throng of ordinary actions. But God, Who searches the heart and the mind, saw with what love she fulfilled her daily tasks as wife and mother.

Patient and toilsome monotony, broken only by the great feast days--quite numerous under the Old Law--when they gathered together, or even went up to Jerusalem to assist at ancient liturgical ceremonies.

This was the patient, graceful existence Saint Anne followed all her life.

The Death Of Saint Anne

Did Saint Anne know the Infant Jesus here on earth? The majority of spiritual writers defer the death of Saint Anne until after the Birth of Christ.

The great German mystic Venerable Anna Katerina Emmerich tells us, in her Revelations, that the Divine Child Jesus was eight years old, when his holy grandmother died; and that it was the Child Jesus Himself who assisted her in her last moments.

Now that Saint Anne had been able to take her Grandchild in her arms, she could at last depart in peace, going from earth to the waiting room of Heaven, into which she would enter on Ascension Day, following in the train of the Risen and Triumphant Christ.

Surrounded by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she smiled on Death, which, in the gentle calm of the evening of incomparable life, drew near to lead her to her Eternal Reward.

A lively spirit of recollection and prayer, submission to the holy Will of God, compassion for the needs of others, voluntary self-effacement, strength of soul in the face of hardships: these are the some of the features that make up the true picture of Saint Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.

St. Helena

According to tradition, the great and holy Helena lived in the German holy city of Trier, which later became a major center of the Roman Empire under the venerable Catholic emperor Constantine. (Although Constantine, like most other great Catholic monarchs has been terribly maligned by the falsified 'historical" accounts of Freemasonic, Modernist, secular, Protestant and British "historians," the authentic accounts of Church history tell us quite accurately that he was truly a great and holy defender of the Catholic Faith and Christ's One, True Church. Indeed, the eastern Church has always honored him as a saint and the awesome basilica of Constantine in Trier bears witness to his having been also honored as a saint in much of the early Latin Church.)
The incomparable faith and piety of Saint Helena greatly influenced her son Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, and served to kindle a holy zeal in the hearts of the people of the Roman Empire. Forgetful of her high dignity, she delighted to assist at the Divine Office amid the poor; and by her alms-deeds showed herself a mother to the indigent and distressed. In her eightieth year she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with the ardent desire of discovering the Cross on which Our Blessed Redeemer suffered. After many labors, three crosses were found on Mount Calvary, together with the nails and the inscription recorded by the Evangelists. It still remained to identify the true Cross of Our Lord. By the advice of the Bishop, Macarius, the three were applied successively to a woman afflicted with an incurable disease, and no sooner had the third touched her than she arose, perfectly healed. The pious Empress, transported with joy, built a most glorious church on Mount Calvary to receive the precious relic, sending portions of it to Rome, Trier, and Constantinople, where they were solemnly exposed to the adoration of the faithful. In the year 312, Constantine, while encamped with the imperial troops in Germany, found himself attacked by the heathen Maxentius with vastly superior forces, and the very existence of his Empire threatened. In this crisis he bethought himself of the Christian God Whom his mother Helena worshipped, and kneeling down, prayed God to reveal Himself and give him victory. Suddenly, at noonday, a cross of fire was seen by his army in the calm and cloudless sky, and beneath it the words, "In Hoc Signo Vinces" C "In this Sign you shall conquer." By Divine command, Constantine made a standard like the Cross he had seen, which was borne at the head of his troops; and under this Christian ensign they marched against the enemy, and obtained a complete victory. Shortly after, St. Helena herself returned from her beloved city of Trier (where today is found the magnificent basilica of the seamless Robe of Christ left there by St. Helena) to Rome, where she expired in 328. Her feast is observed on August 18.
Reflection: St. Helena thought it the glory of her life to find the Cross of Christ, and to raise a temple in Its honor. How many Christians in these days are ashamed to make this life-giving sign, and to confess themselves the followers of the Crucified!

Note on the Minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Code of Canon Law, in can. 1003 1 (cf. also can. 739 1 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) exactly reflects the doctrine expressed by the Council of Trent (Session XIV, can. 4: DS 1719; cf. also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1516), which states that "only priests (Bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick".
This doctrine is definitive tenenda. Neither deacons nor lay persons may exercise the said ministry, and any action in this regard constitutes a simulation of the Sacrament.
From the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rome, 11 February 2005, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
Accompanying letter
To the Cardinals and Bishops, Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences
In recent years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has been asked various questions on the minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
In this regard, this Dicastery deems it appropriate to send to all Pastors of the Catholic Church the enclosed Note on the Minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (cf. Enclosure, n. 1).
For your convenience, we also send you an overview of the history of the doctrine on the subject, written by an expert in this area (cf. Enclosure, n. 2).
In communicating to you the above, I make the most of this occasion to offer you my distinguished respects and confirm that I remain yours devotedly,
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
In these last decades theological tendencies have appeared which cast doubt on the Church's teaching that the minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick "est omnis et solus sacerdos". The approach to the subject has been mainly pastoral, with special consideration for those regions in which the shortage of priests makes it difficult to administer the Sacrament promptly, whereas the problem could be overcome if permanent deacons and even qualified lay people could be delegated to administer the Sacrament.
The Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith intends to call attention to these trends to avert the risk of possible attempts to put them into practice, to the detriment of the faith and with serious spiritual damage to the sick, whom it is desired to help.
Catholic theology has seen in the Epistle of James (5: 14-15) the biblical foundation for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The author of the Epistle, having made various recommendations concerning Christian life, also offers a directive for the sick: "Is there anyone sick among you? He should ask for the presbyters of the Church. They in turn are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. This prayer uttered in faith will reclaim the one who is ill, and the Lord will restore him to health. If he has committed any sins, forgiveness will be his".
In this text, under the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church has identified down the centuries the essential elements of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, ch. 1-3, cann. 1-4: DS 1695-1700, 1716-1719) systematically proposes: a) subject: the seriously ill member of the faithful; b) minister: "omnis et solus sacerdos"; c) substance: the anointing with blessed oil; d) form: the minister's prayer; e) effects: salvific grace, the forgiveness of sins, the relief of the sick person.
Now, apart from the other aspects, the concern here is to underline the doctrinal factor relating to the minister of the Sacrament to whom the Note of the Congregation exclusively refers.
The Greek words of James' Epistle (5: 14), which the Vulgate translates as "presbyteros Ecclesiae" in accordance with tradition, cannot be referring to the elders of the community in terms of age but to that specific category of the faithful who, through the imposition of hands, the Holy Spirit had ordained to tend the Church of God.
The first Document of the Magisterium that speaks explicitly of the Anointing of the Sick is a Letter of Pope Innocent I to Decentius, Bishop of Gubbio (19 March 416). The Pope, commenting on the words of the Epistle of James in reaction to the interpretation which claimed that only presbyters could be ministers of the Sacrament with the exclusion of Bishops, rejected this restriction, stating that presbyters are ministers of the Sacrament and Bishops are too (cf. DS 216).
In any case, Pope Innocent I's Letter, like other testimonies of the first millennium (Caesarius of Arles, the Venerable Bede), provides no proof of the possibility of introducing ministers who are not priests to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
The following data can be found in the Magisterium and subsequent legislation until the Council of Trent: Gratian, in his Decretum (c. 1140), interprets almost literally the enacting part of the above-mentioned Letter of Innocent I (part 1, dis. 95, can. 3).
Then in the Decretals of Gregory IX, a Decretal of Alexander III (1159-1164) is inserted in which he responds in the affirmative to the question of whether the priest can administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick on his own, without another cleric or lay person being present (X. 5, 40, 14).
Lastly, in the Bull Exsultate Deo (22 November 1439) the Council of Florence asserts as a pacifying truth that "the minister of this Sacrament is the priest" (DS 1325).
In response to the Reformers' contestation that the Anointing of the Sick was not a Sacrament but a human invention, and that the "presbyters" mentioned in the Epistle of James were not ordained priests but elders of the community, the Council of Trent amply expounded on Catholic doctrine in this regard (Sess. XIV, ch. 3: DS 1697-1700). It anathematized those who denied that the Anointing of the Sick is one of the seven sacraments (ibid., can. 1: DS 1716) and that the minister of this Sacrament is only the priest (ibid., can. 4: DS 1719).
From the Council of Trent to the codification of 1917, only two interventions of the Magisterium in some way touched on this topic. They were the Apostolic Constitution Etsi Pastoralis (26 May 1742, cf. 5, n. 3: DS 2524) and the Encyclical Ex Quo Primum (1 March 1756) by Benedict XIV.
In the first Document liturgical norms are presented on relations between the Latins and the Oriental Catholics who, fleeing the persecutions, had arrived in Southern Italy; whereas in the second Document, the Eucologio (ritual) of Orientals who had returned to full communion with the Apostolic See was approved and commented upon (it should be noted that the Orthodox also consider that the minister of the Anointing is only the Bishop or the presbyter).
With regard to the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, it is implied as a peacefully acquired truth that the minister of the Sacrament be "omnis et solus sacerdos".
The traditional doctrine expressed by the Council of Trent on the minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was codified in the Code of Canon Law promulgated in the year 1917 (can. 938 1) and repeated with almost the same words in the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 (can. 1003 1) and in the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990 (can. 739 1).
All the Rituals of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick have, moreover, always presumed that the minister of the Sacrament be either a Bishop or a priest (cf. Ordo Unctionis Infirmorum eorumque pastoralis curae, Editio typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1972, Praenotanda, nn. 5, 16-19). Therefore, they never contemplated the possibility that the minister be a deacon or a lay person.
The doctrine which holds that the minister of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick "est omnis et solus sacerdos" enjoys such a degree of theological certainty that it must be described as a doctrine "definitive tenenda". The Sacrament is not valid if a deacon or a layman attempts to administer it. Such an action would be a crime of simulation in the administration of a sacrament, to be penalized in accordance with can. 1379, CIC (cf. can. 1443, CCEO).
To conclude, it would indeed be appropriate to recall that through the sacrament he has received the priest makes present in a quite special way the Lord Jesus Christ, Head of the Church.
In the administration of the sacraments, he acts in persona Christi Capitis and in persona Ecclesiae. The person who acts in this Sacrament is Jesus Christ; the priest is the living and visible instrument. He represents and makes Christ present in a special way, which is why the Sacrament has special dignity and efficacy in comparison with a sacramental: therefore, as the inspired Word says concerning the Anointing of the Sick, "the Lord will raise him up" (Jas 5: 15).
The priest also acts in persona Ecclesiae. The "presbyters of the Church" (Jas 5: 14) pray on behalf of the whole Church; as St Thomas Aquinas says on this subject: "oratio illa non fit a sacerdote in persona sua..., sed fit in persona totius Ecclesiae" (Summa Theologiae, Supplementum, q. 31, a1, ad 1). Such a prayer is heard.

Through church, Jesus ministers to all who are sick in the world

Jesus, after his Passion, death, resurrection and ascension, did not abandon the sick, the suffering and the dying. During his earthly ministry, he had a profound care for the sick and the suffering. During his heavenly ministry at the right hand of the Father, he has that same care for the sick and the suffering.
Jesus established the church as his body on earth. Now Jesus’ ministry to the sick and suffering is not simply to those who walked the streets in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. By establishing the church, his ministry to the sick can go “to the ends of the earth.”
The preeminent way that Jesus continues to show his care for the sick and suffering through the church is by the sacrament of anointing of the sick, which Jesus himself instituted. “So they (the Apostles) went off and preached repentance. They drove out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mark 6:12-13).
St. James, in his letter, describes the essential elements of this special sacrament. “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters (priests) of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15). In what St. James says we can see that this sacrament is for the maladies of both body and soul.
The essential elements of this sacrament are the anointing with oil blessed by the bishop and the prayer of the bishop or priest when the sacrament is administered.
The prayer of blessing of the oil of the sick can help us understand this sacrament. The bishop prays, “May your blessing come upon all who are anointed with this oil, that they may be freed from pain and illness and made well again in body, mind, and soul.”

During anointing, the bishop or priest prays, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”
Following upon what Christ has revealed through Scripture and tradition about this glorious sacrament, the catechism helps us to understand what exactly happens when someone receives anointing of the sick.
First, we receive a particular gift of the Holy Spirit. “The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will” (CCC, 1520).
Another thing to keep in mind about this special gift is that “‘God is love’ and love is his first gift, containing all others. ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’” (CCC, 733).
Second, through this sacrament there is special union brought about with the Passion of Christ. “By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ’s Passion…it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus” (CCC, 1521).
There is not a mere imitation of Christ’s suffering, but an actual, real participation in Christ’s suffering, which brings about the salvation of the human race. Our suffering mysteriously contributes to our own salvation and the salvation of others.
St. Paul understands this clearly: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:10-12).
Third, by receiving this sacrament we receive an ecclesial grace. “The sick who receive this sacrament, ‘by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ,’ ‘contribute to the good of the People of God.’ By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, through the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father” (CCC, 1522). This helps us understand more clearly the second effect of the sacrament mentioned above.
Finally, it is a preparation for the final journey. “The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointing that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering into the Father’s house” (CCC, 1523).
Through all of this we see that Christ wants us to be united with his suffering, so as to share definitively in the glory of his resurrection in heaven, where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Suffering can lead to salvation

St. Paul’s understanding of suffering as a participation in salvation is especially evident when he speaks of how his suffering affects others.
In 2 Timothy Paul says, “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2:3). Following this Paul speaks of his imprisonment for the preaching of the Gospel, “the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal” (v. 9).
We hear how his suffering affects other when he says: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (vv. 10-12).
In this passage, we see clearly that Paul views his suffering as being salvific for others; he suffers to bring the Gospel, the message of salvation, to the people. He endures his suffering so that they may obtain salvation. Dying, living, and reigning with Christ are aspects of salvation; they “go with eternal glory.”
This notion of suffering to obtain eternal glory is also found in Roman 8:17-18 where Paul is speaking of receiving the Spirit of sonship whereby we become children of God and co-heirs with Christ. Paul says: “…and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Further on in Romans 8 he tells us, “We know that in everything [suffering] God works for good with those who love him who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28). Those who suffer are called to share in eternal glory, which is made clearly manifest by the resurrection of Christ.
This notion of our suffering and glory go hand in hand with the suffering and glory of Christ. Not only did the resurrection of Christ show his glory, it was also manifested through the cross. John Paul II notes, “In weakness He manifested His power, and in humiliation He manifested all His messianic greatness” (Salvifici Doloris, 22). Christ manifests his power in our suffering and death, which will one day lead to the resurrection.
Elsewhere Paul speaks of his suffering for others so they may obtain glory. He says, “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:13).
In 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of how he is afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, always carrying in his body the death of Jesus (cf. 4:8-10). He also speaks of how in living he is dying for the sake of Christ.
However, suffering is not only for Christ. Paul goes on to say: “[K]nowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake…” (4:14). Notice once again he reveals how suffering leads to being raised. Paul suffers not only for his sake, nor only for Christ’s sake, but also for the sake of others, so that they may be brought into God’s presence.
John Paul II recognizes in this text that “these sufferings enable the recipients of that letter to share in the work of Redemption, accomplished through the suffering and death of the Redeemer” (SD, 20). St. Paul speaks of the notion of glory a few verses later: “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (4:17).
Colossians 1:24 brings together all that has been said thus far. It summarizes Paul’s view that when he suffers he does so for Christ and for others. We see in this passage that when Paul speaks of suffering for Christ, it necessarily includes suffering for others, namely the church. Here Paul’s teaching on the mystical body is linked most profoundly to his teaching on suffering when he says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
John Paul II notes concerning the notion of making up what is lacking: “This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. Insofar as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings…to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world” (SD, 24).
We must realize that making up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering does not mean that redemption is not completed by Christ. Rather, “it only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering” (SD, 24).
Paul is trying to show us that when we suffer we participate in the saving act of redemption. This is not because Christ did not do all he needed to do, but rather that Christ allows us, by divine will, to participate in this aspect of our own and others’ salvation. Suffering is not meaningless. Paul rejoices because in his suffering he suffers for Christ the head, and Christ the body, the church, bringing about her salvation. He is also joyful because suffering is not useless. John Paul II notes, “Faith in sharing the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person ‘completes what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions’; the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters (SD, 27).
For Paul, suffering leads to hope precisely because of God’s love. He says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

St. Paul explains the meaning of suffering

Two questions have plagued the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike: why is there suffering? Why does God allow suffering?
There is one person who stands out above all to give an answer to these deepest of questions, namely St. Paul. In St. Paul’s writings we find a greatly developed meaning of suffering. Pope John Paul II explains why St. Paul writes so much on suffering: “The Apostle shares his own discovery and rejoices in it because of all those whom it can help – just as it helped him – to understand the salvific meaning of suffering” (Salvifici Doloris, 1).
In this column we will consider Paul’s inward focus, the way in which he sees himself, through his suffering, as participating in salvation, especially the Passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. In the next column we will consider his outward focus, namely, his view on how his suffering affects others.
Paul understands that the suffering he endures serves as a way to be like Christ, as well as it being for Christ’s sake. Paul says: “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11)
This passage follows a text where Paul speaks about all he had gained according to the flesh, being a Hebrew and a Pharisee. However, he now considers this gain to be loss and refuse, compared to gaining Christ through his sufferings. He gains righteousness not through his own power but through Christ’s.
Suffering is a participation in the mystery of Christ and is the way Paul can become like Christ. Suffering is his way of “becoming like him (Christ) in his death” so that he “may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Through his suffering, Paul sees himself as participating in the Passion of Christ. Because we are being saved through the death and resurrection of Christ we must participate in his Passion to obtain salvation.
We see elsewhere in Philippians this notion of imitating Christ being gain for Paul, whether in death or life. He says: “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:19-21).
For Paul to live is gain because while he suffers in this life he is imitating Christ and becoming more Christ-like. Further, to live is gain because while Paul lives he can spread the faith and be an example for the Christian community. He says, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (Philippians 1:24) Also, to die is gain because if he were to die he would share in the resurrection of Christ. So whether he lives and suffers, leading to the resurrection for himself and others, or dies and shares in the resurrection himself alone, he will be united to Christ and be an example for all.
Another dimension of Paul’s thought on the meaning of suffering is his conception of suffering as a means for sanctification, keeping pride at a minimum and trust in God at a maximum. He says: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
It is in weakness that we are more apt to trust in Christ because we realize that what we accomplish is not of our own doing, but the grace of Christ is working in us. Furthermore, it is in our weakness and suffering that we grow in humility and cannot pride ourselves in our accomplishments. We suffer “to make us rely, not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)
We see in these verses of 2 Corinthians 12 that this suffering is once again “for the sake of Christ.” It is through grace that Paul can be content with suffering. We receive here an insight into the effectiveness of grace. Grace helps us to participate in the salvific act of suffering and to be content with it.
This is why Paul can say in his letter to the Galatians that “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (2:20) Christ gave himself up for us in the salvific act of his Passion and death; Paul sees himself doing the same in participating in the Passion and death of Christ. Christ lives in him when he is “crucified with Christ.” John Paul II notes that “Christ also becomes in a particular way united to the man, Paul, through the cross” (SD, 20).
Paul reveals to us the paradox of the cross. To be crucified usually means death, but for Paul it means Christ living in him. In suffering, when united to Christ, death now means life. This is why he says in 1 Corinthians: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18).
There is this intimate bond between the cross, the epitome of the sufferings of Christ, and the suffering of the people which is a participation in the self-same cross. Thus participation in the cross through suffering is a way of obtaining grace, the power of God to participate in salvation. This is also why Paul can say elsewhere in Galatians: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world…Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (6:14, 17).

Christ gives meaning to suffering

When the Second Person of the Trinity took on human nature, he entered into a suffering and broken world brought about the sinfulness of Adam, Eve and all mankind. He did so in order to show us the infinite depths of the Father’s love, to heal us and raise us up to newness of life through the sacraments he instituted. He also did so with the purpose of giving meaning to the sufferings we endure.
Jesus, that is, God himself, did not exempt himself from entering into the hell of human suffering. He humbled himself to be rejected by the innkeeper, to be born in a barn full of animals and placed in the feeding trough of those animals.
At the presentation in the Temple, Simeon prophesies suffering: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself (Mary) a sword will pierce…” (Luke 2:34-35).
In his infancy, Jesus had to rely of Joseph to flee from the tyrannical King Herod, who sought to slaughter the newborn king of the Jews.
Throughout his public ministry, he suffered on many occasions. He suffered from temptation, rejection, scorn, ridicule – even from those within his own circle of friends. He suffered the sorrow of losing his friend Lazarus. He suffered at the unjust arrest, imprisonment and murder of his cousin, John the Baptist. He suffered betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter.
Throughout his public ministry, he spoke of his forthcoming suffering: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected…and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22).
And again: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise” (Luke 18:31-33).
However, Jesus healed and raised people from the dead to show that suffering and death will not have the last word, so much so that St. Paul will one day say, “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
He also sent out the Twelve, and then the 70, to do the same. He set it up so that his love and mercy could be extended through the church he established.
Jesus also taught us that suffering is part of the demands of discipleship. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 15:27).
“…Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).
The definitive suffering of Christ began in the upper room and ended on Calvary.
If we want to find the meaning of suffering, we should only look upon the cross. The cross is where we are shown in a perfect way how much God loves us. He loves us with a self-sacrificial, suffering love.
In our own suffering, Christ allows us to share in the deepest sign of his love. He has infused suffering with divine meaning, not human meaninglessness. Human suffering is thus redeemed. Through our suffering, we participate in the sacrifice of Christ, which brings about our salvation and the salvation of others. And it is only through the cross that we are led to the resurrection, there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
So, why do people suffer? Suffering can be a result of sin. Of this there is no doubt. Suffering can also serve as a way of testing and purification. Jesus was tested in the desert while he fasted. He was also tested through suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, so much so that he “began to feel sorrow and distress” and “he was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground” (Matthew 26:37, Luke 22:44).
During this agony, he says, “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). It is a test that will help us see if we will follow God only in good times, but also in bad times. In the midst of the test of suffering, will we shout out with a loud cry, “My will be done,” or “Thy will be done!”
We also suffer so that a space may be created to show love – of God and of neighbor. The suffering of others provides opportunities to demonstrate our love, the primary scriptural example being the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:29-37).
Typical responses to the suffering of others might be, “I will pray for you.” That is love. “I will make a meal and bring it over.” That is love. “I will come visit you in the hospital.” That is love. “I will call a priest to give you the sacrament of anointing of the sick.” That is love.
We should also strive to unite our sufferings to Christ, placing ourselves at the foot of the cross with Mary and John, where the mystery of divine love is most manifest. We should also unite ourselves to Christ through reception of the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
In the next article, I will write more about how Christ extends his mercy and love to us in this glorious sacrament. However, we can also, in a profound way, unite our suffering to Christ in the Mass. Where his body and blood is given for us, may we, too, surrender our body and blood to him in the sacrifice of the Mass.

Bible reveals truth about human suffering and death

Suffering, whether physical, spiritual or psychological, is often an opportunity when many question the existence of God, or at the very least whom this God is who allows suffering, in particular the suffering of the innocent.
God, throughout the Old Testament, helps us to understand what he will fully reveal in the New Testament regarding suffering. We now know that God the Father has sent the Son to give us the Holy Spirit through the sacraments, one of which is referred to as anointing of the sick.
“Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters (priests) of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord…” (James 5:14). Here, St. James describes the essential elements of this special sacrament.
When it comes to understanding suffering, as well as death, the first thing that must be mentioned is that they are a result of original sin. St. Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Death is the most extreme form of suffering. Once sin entered the world through the free choice of our first parents, so did suffering and death, both physical and spiritual.
Throughout the Old Testament, we gain an understanding that suffering and death can be a consequence of personal sin. However, it is not the case that our heavenly Father is sitting up on throne of glory, waiting for us to sin, than exacting his pound of flesh because we have wandered from his ways. If anything, he allows us to suffer to divest us of the pride of having done things our way, to help us realize that our peace, joy and fulfillment lie in doing things his way. Nevertheless he is not going to force us to do things his way, but he is going to allow us to experience the consequences of our actions.
It could be argued that suffering is God’s way of punishing, but it could also be argued that suffering is part of God’s mercy. There is not a whole lot worse than living profoundly sinful lives while never experiencing the consequences of those actions: the man who lies, cheats and steals and gets away with it. Often it’s only when the drunkard finally sees that he has lost his wife, children and home that he turns things around. God, in his mercy, allows him to hit rock bottom.
It is also the case that in the Old Testament we do not only have the guilty suffering; the innocent also suffer. This, too, is a result of sin having entered the world. If it weren’t for the sinful choices of Adam, Eve and all men and women’s personal sins, the innocent would not suffer. It is not God’s fault that the innocent suffer; it is our fault.
However, God does prepare us in the Old Testament to understand what is going to take place in the New regarding the suffering of the innocent.
Most of us are familiar with the great icon of innocent suffering, Job. Job’s friends tell him that his suffering is a result of his own sinfulness. But Scripture tells us that Job was, “blameless and upright,” someone who, “feared God and avoided evil” (Job 1:1).
Job’s response teaches us something that will be fully revealed with the coming of Christ. Job proclaims, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him, and from my flesh I shall see God; my inmost being is consumed with longing” (Job 19:25-27). Job sees a link between suffering and redemption; he hopes for salvation even in the midst of suffering.
Then there is Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the forthcoming innocent suffering servant redeemer. “He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity…yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured…but he was pierced for our offences, crushed for our sins…Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear…and he shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offences” (Isaiah 53:3, 4, 5, 11, 12). The suffering servant of the Lord will bring about salvation.
It is also important to mention one additional aspect of the Old Testament regarding suffering and death that is typically associated with the New Testament, namely healing and raising from the dead. Both in the Old and the New Testaments, healing and raising from the dead show that God can conquer both, thus manifesting his glory.
The prophet Elisha, who prefigures Jesus, is an instrument of God’s healing and raising from the dead. In 2 Kings 5 we read how Namaan, who has leprosy, is told by the prophet to go wash seven times in the Jordan River. When he does so, he is cured and proclaims, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” (5:15). These are profound words of faith from a gentile Syrian commander, not an Israelite.
In 2 Kings 4 Elisha raises a boy from the dead. “When Elisha reached the house, he found the boy lying dead. He went in, closed the door on them both, and prayed to the Lord. Then he lay upon the child on the bed, placing his mouth upon the child’s mouth, his eyes upon the eyes, and his hand upon the hands. As Elisha stretched himself over the child, the body became warm” (4:32-34).
All of this will help us more fully understand the meaning of suffering, death and anointing of the sick as fully revealed to us by Christ in the new and everlasting covenant, which we will turn to in the next article.

The Anointing of the Sick - Catechism of the Catholic Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Second Edition
Part Two
The Celebration of the Christian Mystery Section Two
The Severn Sacraments of the Church
Chapter Two
The Sacraments of Healing
Article 5
The Anointing of the Sick

1499 "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ." 98


Illness in human life

1500 Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death.

1501 Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

The sick person before God

1502 The man of the Old Testament lives his sickness in the presence of God. It is before God that he laments his illness, and it is of God, Master of life and death, that he implores healing. 99 Illness becomes a way to conversion; God's forgiveness initiates the healing. 100 It is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil, and that faithfulness to God according to his law restores life: "For I am the Lord, your healer." 101 The prophet intuits that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others. 102 Finally Isaiah announces that God will usher in a time for Zion when he will pardon every offense and heal every illness. 103

Christ the physician

1503 Christ's compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that "God has visited his people" 104 and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; 105 he has come to heal the whole man, soul and body; he is the physician the sick have need of. 106 His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that he identifies himself with them: "I was sick and you visited me." 107 His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

1504 Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. 108 He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, 109 mud and washing. 110 The sick try to touch him, "for power came forth from him and healed them all." 111 And so in the sacraments Christ continues to "touch" us in order to heal us.

1505 Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.". 112 But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the "sin of the world,". 113 of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

"Heal the sick . . ."

1506 Christ invites his disciples to follow him by taking up their cross in their turn.. 114 By following him they acquire a new outlook on illness and the sick. Jesus associates them with his own life of poverty and service. He makes them share in his ministry of compassion and healing: "So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.". 115

1507 The risen Lord renews this mission ("In my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." 116 ) and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. 117 These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly "God who saves." 118

1508 The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing 119 so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness," and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church." 120

1509 "Heal the sick!" 121 The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that St. Paul suggests is connected with bodily health. 122

1510 However, the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [ presbyters ] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." 123 Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments. 124

A sacrament of the sick

1511 The Church believes and confesses that among the seven sacraments there is one especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick:

This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of the Lord. 125

1512 From ancient times in the liturgical traditions of both East and West, we have testimonies to the practice of anointings of the sick with blessed oil. Over the centuries the Anointing of the Sick was conferred more and more exclusively on those at the point of death. Because of this it received the name "Extreme Unction." Notwithstanding this evolution the liturgy has never failed to beg the Lord that the sick person may recover his health if it would be conducive to his salvation. 126

1513 The Apostolic Constitution Sacram unctionem infirmorum , 127 following upon the Second Vatican Council, 128 established that henceforth, in the Roman Rite, the following be observed:

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with duly blessed oil - pressed from olives or from other plants - saying, only once: "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." 129


In case of grave illness . . .

1514 The Anointing of the Sick "is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived." 130

1515 If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person's condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.

" . . . let him call for the presbyters of the Church"

1516 Only priests (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick. 131 It is the duty of pastors to instruct the faithful on the benefits of this sacrament. The faithful should encourage the sick to call for a priest to receive this sacrament. The sick should prepare themselves to receive it with good dispositions, assisted by their pastor and the whole ecclesial community, which is invited to surround the sick in a special way through their prayers and fraternal attention.


1517 Like all the sacraments the Anointing of the Sick is a liturgical and communal celebration, 132 whether it takes place in the family home, a hospital or church, for a single sick person or a whole group of sick persons. It is very fitting to celebrate it within the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord's Passover. If circumstances suggest it, the celebration of the sacrament can be preceded by the sacrament of Penance and followed by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the sacrament of Christ's Passover the Eucharist should always be the last sacrament of the earthly journey, the "viaticum" for "passing over" to eternal life.

1518 Word and sacrament form an indivisible whole. The Liturgy of the Word, preceded by an act of repentance, opens the celebration. The words of Christ, the witness of the apostles, awaken the faith of the sick person and of the community to ask the Lord for the strength of his Spirit.

1519 The celebration of the sacrament includes the following principal elements: the "priests of the Church" 133 - in silence - lay hands on the sick; they pray over them in the faith of the Church 134 - this is the epiclesis proper to this sacrament; they then anoint them with oil blessed, if possible, by the bishop.

These liturgical actions indicate what grace this sacrament confers upon the sick.


1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. 135 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God's will. 136 Furthermore, "if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." 137

1521 Union with the passion of Christ . By the grace of this sacrament the sick person receives the strength and the gift of uniting himself more closely to Christ's Passion: in a certain way he is consecrated to bear fruit by configuration to the Savior's redemptive Passion. Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.

1522 An ecclesial grace. The sick who receive this sacrament, "by freely uniting themselves to the passion and death of Christ," "contribute to the good of the People of God." 138 By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, through the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers and offers herself through Christ to God the Father.

1523 A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing). 139 The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father's house. 140


1524 In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of "passing over" to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." 141 The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father. 142

1525 Thus, just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist form a unity called "the sacraments of Christian initiation," so too it can be said that Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and the Eucharist as viaticum constitute at the end of Christian life "the sacraments that prepare for our heavenly homeland" or the sacraments that complete the earthly pilgrimage.


1526 "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" ( Jas 5:14-15).

1527 The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has as its purpose the conferral of a special grace on the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.

1528 The proper time for receiving this holy anointing has certainly arrived when the believer begins to be in danger of death because of illness or old age.

1529 Each time a Christian falls seriously ill, he may receive the Anointing of the Sick, and also when, after he has received it, the illness worsens.

1530 Only priests (presbyters and bishops) can give the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, using oil blessed by the bishop, or if necessary by the celebrating presbyter himself.

1531 The celebration of the Anointing of the Sick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person (in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing being accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament.

1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
- the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
- the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
- the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
- the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
- the preparation for passing over to eternal life.

98 LG 11; cf. Jas 5:14-16; Rom 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Pet 4:13.
99 Cf. Pss 6:3; 38; Isa 38.
100 Cf. Pss 32:5; 38:5; 39:9, 12; 107:20; cf. Mk 2:5-12.
101 Ex 15:26.
102 Cf. Isa 53:11.
103 Cf. Isa 33:24.
104 Lk 7:16; cf. Mt 4:24.
105 Cf. Mk 2:5-12.
106 Cf. Mk 2:17.
107 Mt 25:36.
108 Cf. Mk 5:34, 36; 9:23.
109 Cf. Mk 7:32-36; 8:22-25.
110 Cf. Jn 9:6-7.
111 Lk 6:19; cf. Mk 1:41; 3:10; 6:56.
112 Mt 8:17; cf. Isa 53:4.
113 Jn 1:29; cf. Isa 53:4-6.
114 Cf. Mt 10:38.
115 Mk 6:12-13.
116 Mk 16:17-18.
117 Cf. Acts 9:34; 14:3.
118 Cf. Mt 1:21; Acts 4:12.
119 Cf. 1 Cor 12:9,28,30.
120 2 Cor 12:9; Col 1:24.
121 Mt 10:8.
122 Cf. Jn 6:54, 58; 1 Cor 11:30.
123 Jas 5:14-15.
124 Cf. Council of Constantinople II (553) DS 216; Council Of Florence (1439) 1324- 1325; Council Of Trent (1551) 1695-1696; 1716-1717.
125 Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1695; cf. Mk 6:13; Jas 5:14-15.
126 Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1696.
127 Paul VI, apostolic constitution, Sacram unctionem infirmorum , November 30, 1972.
128 Cf. SC 73.
129 Cf. CIC, Can. 847 § 1.
130 SC 73; cf. CIC, Cann. 1004 § 1; 1005; 1007; CCEO, Can. 738.
131 Cf. Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1697; 1719; CIC, Can. 1003; CCEO, Can. 739 § 1.
132 Cf. SC 27.
133 Jas 5:14.
134 Cf. Jas 5:15.
135 Cf. Heb 2:15.
136 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.
137 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.
138 LG 11 § 2.
139 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1698.
140 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1694.
141 Jn 6:54.
142 Cf. Jn 13:1.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Painted in tempera on hard nutwood, 21 inches by 17, the original picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is one of many copies of the famed Hodeguitria of St. Luke. (The Hodeguitria, reputedly painted by St. Luke, was venerated for centuries at Constantinople as a miraculous icon. It was destroyed by the Turks in the year 1453.) This particular image, however, is THE ONE COPY singled out – by Our Lady herself – for special heavenly favors. You may see it today enshrined above the high altar at the Redemptorist Church of San Alfonso, in Rome. How it got there is a long story.
Briefly, at the close of the 15th century, a merchant stole the picture from its shrine on the island of Crete, miraculously weathered a tumultuous sea voyage, and finally brought it to Rome. There, before he died, he gave it to a Roman friend, begging him to have it placed in a worthy church. This the friend neglected to do.
Next Our Lady appeared to the little daughter of the family. "Go to your mother and grandfather," She commanded, "and say where the picture should be placed: in the church between the basilica of St. Mary Major and that of St. John Lateran." In solemn procession, on March 27, 1499, it was carried to that church, the church of St. Matthew the Apostle. The same day a miracle occurred; a man's arm, crippled beyond use, was completely restored.
SO, FOR 300 YEARS, the picture hung over the main altar in the church of St. Matthew the Apostle, loved by all, renowned far and wide for miracles.
Then came June, 1798. The diabolical Napoleon and his army entered Rome. The church of St. Matthew was leveled to the ground. The picture disappeared. For sixty-four years it remained hidden, almost forgotten, until ... one day at recreation, in the Redemptorist house in Rome, one of the Fathers mentioned having read, in an old tome, that their present church, San Alfonso, was built on the ruins of St. Matthew's, where once was enshrined a miraculous picture: Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The name startled Father Michael Marchi. He recalled, as a boy, having served Mass in the oratory of the Irish Augustinians at Santa Maria in Posterula. There he had seen the picture. An old Brother had pointed it out to him.
SOME MONTHS LATER, in February, Father Francis Blosi, S.J., preaching in the Gesu on "the lost Madonna of Perpetual Help," told how it was Our Lady's wish that the picture be enshrined in the church "between the basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran." Word got back to the Redemptorists. The Superior General was informed. But he waited three more years. He wanted to be certain.
Finally, on December 11, 1865, the whole matter was presented to Pope Pius IX. On January 19, 1866, the miraculous picture was brought once more to the site of its former glory, the church between the two basilicas, now that of San Alfonso. Three months later, it was solemnly enshrined. And on June 23, 1867, it was crowned.
IMPRESSED by the picture's message, over 5,000,000 people throughout the world have enrolled themselves in the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Alphonsus. All that is required for membership is to put your name on the Society's Official Register, at any church where the Confraternity is established. Members are counseled to have recourse to Our Lady in all their spiritual and temporal needs, to imitate her virtues, especially her Purity and Humility, to have by them, at all times, her picture or medal and to say each morning and evening three "Hail Marys" and a "Glory be to the Father."

The Picture's Meaning

Look at this copy of the picture. Frightened by the vision of two Angels showing Him the instruments of the Passion, the Christ Child has run to His Mother, almost losing, in His haste, one of the tiny sandals. Mary holds Him in her arms reassuringly, lovingly. But notice her eyes. They look not at Jesus, but at us. Is this not a touch of genius? How better to express Our Lady's plea to us to avoid sin and love Her Son? Christ's little hands, too, are pressed into Mary's as a reminder to us that, just as on earth He placed Himself entirely in her hands for protection, so now in Heaven He has given into her hands all graces, to distribute to those who ask her. This is the principal message of the picture. A Byzantine icon, however, it is replete with many other symbols. Here are some of them:

  1. The Star on Our Lady's Veil: She is the Star of the Sea, who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world, the Star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven.
  2. Greek initial for "St. Michael the Archangel"; depicted holding the lance and stalk of hyssop with the sponge soaked in gall, symbols of the Passion.
  3. Mary's mouth is small for silent recollection. She speaks but little.
  4. Red tunic, the color worn by virgins at the time of Christ.
  5. Dark blue mantle, the color worn by mothers in Palestine. Mary is both Virgin and Mother.
  6. Christ's Hands, turned palms down into His Mother's, indicate that the graces of Redemption are in her keeping.
  7. Greek Initials for "Mother of God."
  8. Golden Crown was placed on the original picture by order of the Holy See, in 1867. It is a token of the many miracles wrought by Our Lady through invocation of her title, "Our Mother of Perpetual Help."
  9. Greek initial for "St. Gabriel the Archangel." He holds the Cross and the nails.
  10. Mary's eyes are large for all our troubles. They are turned toward us always.
  11. Greek initials for "Jesus Christ."
  12. Our Lady's left hand supports Jesus possessively: She is His Mother. It is a comforting hand for everyone who calls upon her.
  13. Falling sandal from Jesus' foot is, perhaps, the symbol of a soul clinging to Christ by one last thread – devotion to Mary.

    The entire background is golden, symbolic of Heaven, where Jesus and Mary are now enthroned. The gold also shines through Their clothing, showing the heavenly joy They can bring to tired human hearts.

Our Lady of El Pilar

Our Lady of El Pilar—Zaragoza, Spain (Feast—October 12)

Among the Twelve Apostles, three were chosen as the familiar companions of Our Blessed Lord, and of these St. James the Greater was one. He alone, together with St. Peter and his brother St. John, was admitted to the house of Jairus when the dead girl was raised to life. They alone were taken up to the high mountain apart, and saw the face of Jesus shining as the sun, and His garments white as snow; and these three alone witnessed His fearful agony in Gethsemane. What was it that won St. James a place among these three? Faith—burning, impetuous and outspoken, but which needed purifying before the “Son of Thunder” could proclaim the Gospel of Peace. It was St. James who demanded fire from Heaven to consume the inhospitable Samaritans, and who sought the place of honor next to Christ in His Kingdom. Yet Our Lord, in rebuking his presumption, prophesied his faithfulness to death. Indeed when St. James was brought before King Herod Agrippa, his fearless confession of Jesus Crucified so moved the public prosecutor that he declared himself a Christian on the spot. Accused and accuser were hurried off together to execution, and on the road the latter begged pardon of the Saint. The Apostle had long since forgiven him, but hesitated for a moment whether to publicly accept as a brother one still unbaptized. God quickly recalled to him the Church’s Faith, that the blood of martyrdom supplies for every Sacrament, and embraced his companion with the words, “Peace be with thee.” Together then they knelt for the sword, and together received the crown.
But before all this, in the years after the Ascension of Our Lord, all the solicitude of our great Mother and Lady was centered upon the increase and spread of the Holy Catholic Church, the consolation of the Apostles, disciples and the other faithful, and in defending them from the persecution and assaults prepared by the infernal dragon and his hosts. Before Our Blessed Lady departed from Jerusalem to take up her abode in Ephesus, She ordered and arranged many things, both by herself and her holy Angels, to provide for the needs of the Church in Her absence. The most effectual service She could render was Her continual prayer. She offered special prayers for St. James the Greater, as She knew this Apostle would be the first to shed his blood for Christ.
On the fourth day before leaving for Ephesus, Our Blessed Lady asked Our Lord: “Lord, what dost Thou command me to do? What dost Thou desire of me?” Repeating these words, She saw her Divine Son descending in Person, with all His court to visit Her. The humble and devout Virgin worshiped Him in deepest reverence from the inmost of Her purest soul. Our Lord replied to Her petition: “My most beloved Mother... I am attentive to Thy petitions and holy desires and they are pleasing to Me. I shall defend My Apostles and My Church, and I shall be their Father and Protector, so that It shall not be overcome, nor the gates of Hell prevail against It (Matt. 18:18). It is necessary for My glory that the Apostles labor and follow Me to the Cross and to the death I have suffered for the whole human race. The first one to imitate Me is My faithful servant, James, and I desire that he suffer martyrdom in this city of Jerusalem. I desire that thou go to Zaragoza, where he is now, and command him to return to Jerusalem. But before he leaves that city, he is to build a church in Thy name.” After expressing her sincerest gratitude to her Divine Son, She asked that She be permitted to promise the special protection of Her Divine Son and that this sacred place shall be part of Her inheritance for the use of all who call with devotion upon Her Son's Holy Name, asking Her to intercede for them. Our Divine Lord promised His holy Mother that all She asked would be fulfilled according to Her will and power at this sacred Shrine.
At the command of Our Lord, a great number of Angels placed Her on a throne formed by a resplendent cloud, and proclaimed Her Queen and Mistress of all creation. The purest Mother, borne by Seraphim and Angels, departed body and soul for Zaragoza in Spain. St. James was lost in exalted prayer when the Angels placed the throne of their Queen and Lady within sight of the Apostle and his disciples. The Angels bore with them a small column hewn of marble or jasper, and a small image of their Queen. Seated on Her throne on the cloud, She manifested herself to St. James. The Apostle prostrated himself and in deepest reverence venerated the Mother of his Creator and Redeemer. At the same time he was shown the image and the pillar in the hands of some of the Angels. The loving Queen gave him Her blessing and said, “My son James, this place, the Most High and Omnipotent God of Heaven has destined to be consecrated by thee upon earth for the erection of a church and house of prayer, where, under My patronage and name, He wishes to be glorified and magnified, where the treasures of His right hand shall be opened up for all the faithful through My intercession, if they ask for them in true faith and sincere piety. This column, with My image placed upon it, shall be a pledge of this truth and of My promise. In the church which thou shall build for Me, it shall remain and be preserved until the end of the world. Thou shalt immediately begin to build this church, and after thou hast completed it, thou shalt depart for Jerusalem.”
At the Queen's command, the holy Angels set up the column, and upon it the sacred image, in the same place where they now stand. St. James, together with the holy Angels celebrated the first dedication of a Church instituted in this world under the name and title of the great Mistress of Heaven and earth. Our Apostle gave most humble thanks to his Blessed Mother Mary and asked for special protection of this Spanish kingdom, and particularly of this place consecrated to Her devotion and name. Our heavenly Mother granted him all his requests, gave him Her blessing, and was carried back to Jerusalem.
A multitude of miracles have been wrought at the Shrine of Our Lady of El Pilar, but the following stands pre-eminent both for splendor and authenticity. Let those who impugn the devotion to Our Blessed Lady know that it stands on record that by means of it a man recovered, at this Church in Zaragoza, one of his legs which had been amputated. His name was Miguel Juan Pellicer, aged at that time 19 years, and born at Calanda, a town of Aragon and the home of his parents. One day the young man, being in the service of his uncle, Diego (James) Blasco, at Castellon de la Plena, in Valencia, fell out of a wagon and broke his leg. He was taken to the hospital at Valencia, and after many remedies had been tried in vain, he was taken to the great hospital at Zaragoza, where he was placed under the care of Juan d’Estanga, a celebrated surgeon.
The young man had a great devotion to Our Lady of El Pilar, and when he was taken to Zaragoza, he first received the Sacraments at Her Church. When the surgeon was obliged to amputate his leg—a finger’s breadth below the knee—Miguel invoked the Blessed Virgin with great fervor. When the wound had begun to heal, he dragged himself to Her image to offer up thanks and place his whole life in Her hands; and when, afterwards, he suffered intense pain in the sore limb, he used to go to the Church of El Pilar and anoint the stump with the oil from one of the lamps which burned before Her. He did this consistently, and for two years was known by everybody to frequent the Church of Our Blessed Lady, sometimes imploring Her aid, sometimes begging the charity of the passers-by.
In 1640 he returned to Calanda, and used to beg for his support. On March 29th, 1641, after having exhausted himself cutting grass, he hung up his wooden leg, and went to bed. Later that night his mother entered his room, and was amazed to see two feet in her son’s bed. At first she thought one of the soldiers quartered in the town had got into the house, and ran to tell her husband. But when Miguel’s father arrived, he saw it was his son, and awoke him. The son cried out on awakening, “I dreamt that I was in the chapel of Our Lady of El Pilar, where I was anointing my stump with the oil of the lamp!” The father instantly answered, “Give thanks to God, my son. His Holy Mother has restored you your leg.” Miguel did not know it till then.
News of the event immediately spread all over the town, and the same night all the inhabitants came to witness the miracle. The next day a large crowd accompanied him to the church to render thanks, and all beheld him with two legs, who, the day before, was known to have but one. The young man was conducted to Zaragoza, and judicially examined. An advocate was named, witnesses were examined, the question was debated, and at length, on April 27, 1641, the most illustrious Lord Pedro Apaolara, Archbishop of Zaragoza, pronounced that the fact was true, and that it surpassed all natural powers. The verdict was also signed by the Prior of St. Cristina, the Vicar-General, the Archdeacon, the senior professor of canon law, and several other professors and provincials of Religious Orders.

To these testimonies may be added that of Jerónimo Brizius (quoted by the Bollandists in Acta Sanctorum, vi, p. 118), who made the following declaration: “By order of Sr. Gabriel de Aldamas, Vicar-General of Madrid, I have read the publication regarding the astounding miracle wrought by Our Lady of El Pilar. I know that it is true. In the first place, I knew the young man at Zaragoza, where, deprived of one leg, he used to ask alms at the door of the Church of the Virgin; and I afterwards saw him at Madrid, whence His Majesty had sent for him, walking on his two feet. I saw the mark which the Blessed Virgin left to attest to the incision; and the other Fathers of this royal College of the Society of Jesus saw it, like myself. I knew the parents of the young man, who were assisted by the Canons of Our Lady of El Pilar. I also knew the surgeon who made the amputation. Dated, Madrid, at the College of the Society of Jesus, March 12, 1642.”