"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

What About the Dead?

Published May 11, 2014 by Fr. Paul Counce

We’ve really reached the end of our consideration in these morceaux of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. I just wanted to men­tion a couple of last points, ones which people are usually rather curious about.

The first answers the question: “Can a dead person be anointed?” When there is no doubt that death has occurred, the answer is “no.” Someone who has already passed away does not benefit from the Sacramental ritual. However, there are other special prayers and rituals for the dead which can be offered, and indeed these should be.

A second question is very similar: “Can an uncon­scious, comatose, or senile person be anointed?” Here the answer is “yes,” as long as it is known that the individual would have asked for the Sacrament when in full possession of mental faculties.

And the law of the Church is very generous in approaching these situations. Canon law says that “if there is any doubt” that the sick person otherwise ought to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or even is still alive, “this Sacrament is to be administered” (can. 1005). I think that one of the main reasons for this is a broad one: the benefit of the family and others who are close to the ill person. Even if the Sacramental ritual has no effect on the sick recipient – say, if he was already dead, or if she didn’t believe in the sacrament’s effectiveness or was unrepentant of some ongoing mortal sin – it could still be a comfort to family members or friends to know that they were given this additional opportunity to embrace Christ our Savior.

In the final analysis, after all, the Church wants to make salvation available to everyone, even those who no longer can think or act for themselves. This means being generous in providing opportunities for grace!

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