The Pastor's Column

Fr. Maina

Sacrament of the Sick

This weekend’s bulletin departs from my ongoing reflection on the Bread of Life discourse to address a special ministry in the Church--the Anointing of the Sick. First and foremost, I invite you to the next Sunday’s celebration of the sacrament during the 9:30am mass. Second, I address the three important talking points about the Anointing of the Sick: The theology of illness and healing, the Sacrament itself and our parish procedures and recommendations for requesting Anointing of the Sick.

As we know, illness is part of human life. At some point, each of us experiences illness. Through our Christian faith, however, we can always draw valuable spiritual insights while dealing with illness.

Throughout Jesus’ healing ministry, Jesus understood the horror and fear surrounding illness, both in the person and in the society. At that time, in addition to physical limitations due to illness, people also endured rejection and expulsion from the community, in part because they were deemed unclean. Jesus’ outlook on sickness and illness entailed compassion. He experienced the pain of others’ illnesses to the very core of His being and longed to heal them and restore them to the community.

That compassion in Jesus was commanded to the disciples and continues in the Church today through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. While sickness can cause people to feel despair, pain, and challenge, it can also give them an opportunity to receive God’s grace and strength. Illness can even bring about a conversion moment insofar as the Sacrament may inspire them to deepen their faith in Christ.

By laying hands on a sick person (as Jesus and the disciples did), the priest signifies a sacred purpose, a changed reality and a blessing. Traditionally, the laying on of hands was also seen as a sign of mission for God. In the practice of the Church’s sacramental ministry to the sick, laying on of hands invokes the Holy Spirit to bestow courage and strength on the sick person.

With Vatican Council II, the liturgical nature of this sacrament was emphasized, making it an action of a community of believers. This Council also emphasized that the Sacrament is to be seen as Christ’s healing ministry (James 5: 14-15) rather than as a last rite for the dying. Because of this, the Church deemed it acceptable for people to receive the Sacrament more than once. Careful judgment about the gravity of the illness is sufficient for one to receive the Sacrament.

Additionally, people, frail because of age, can receive the Sacrament even though they have no life-threatening illness as can people about to undergo surgery. The prayed-for effect of the Sacrament is that if it be God’s will, the person will receive physical healing. Even if physical healing is not realized, the primary effect of the Sacrament is spiritual healing. The person receiving the Sacrament is granted the grace of peace and courage to deal with the challenges of illness or old age. Another element in the Sacrament of the Sick is that a sick person’s sins are forgiven if that person is unable to go to confession before the Sacrament of the Sick is administered. For this reason, only a bishop or an ordained priest can administer the Sacrament of the Sick, using the Oil of the Sick which is blessed by the bishop for parish use in this sacrament only.

Thus, I encourage parishioners experiencing illness to make every effort to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. If you are at home, please call the rectory office at 847-729-1414 to make arrangements to receive the Sacrament. If you are admitted to the hospital, be sure to indicate that you are a Catholic and request Pastoral Care. If you mention your parish, the chaplain may contact us and request that a priest visit you. At Glenbrook Hospital, priests from OLPH, St. Norbert, and St. Catherine take turns to accommodate patients’ sacramental needs. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I am responsible for any priestly duty at Glenbrook Hospital. Advocate Lutheran General Hospital has a full-time priest and parishes near the hospital also help to cover any priestly duty.

I pray that anyone who is sick, recovering from a serious injury, or feeling frail in old age will take advantage of this Sacrament when in need. I also echo the invitation extended in the past few weeks to come for the communal Sacrament of the Sick during the 9:30am mass next Sunday. I will also be available after all masses to offer the healing sacrament to anyone who cannot attend the 9:30am mass. As always, I will make myself available for this crucial ministry whenever asked and I thank all Ministers of Care for praying with and distributing communion to all the sick people in our community. Their dedication and love for ministry brings the healing touch of Jesus. God bless them for the good work they do.

May God bless you and your family.

Fr. Maina
With you a Christian, for you a priest