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What is the Difference Between Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites?

Mark Brumley explains why Last Rites are only administered to those near death, while Anointing of the Sick is for people with serious illnesses who are not necessarily about to die.


Host: Sara in San Antonio, Texas, a lot of Texas calls today, happy to have your calls from Texas. Sara listening on Guadalupe Radio, you are on with Mark Brumley, what’s your question?

Caller: Hi, thank you for taking my call. I was wondering what’s the difference, if any, between Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites? Are they under the same umbrella of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?

Mark: Good question, and the answer is no, they’re not. They’re really distinct. Last Rites are the set of prayers and Sacramental activities that occur as someone is preparing to die, when it’s pretty clear that that person is dying, in the process of dying.

Anointing of the Sick is a Sacrament that is given for the healing–bodily healing and spiritual healing–of a person who is seriously ill. That person may not be dying, but may be, you know, at serious risk from illness or something of that sort; but the purpose of Anointing of the Sick is to bring about a healing–if it’s God’s will–bodily healing, but certainly spiritual healing–with the idea that that person may well then go on to live life and recover.

When we’re talking about the Last Rites, we’re usually talking about the Eucharist Viaticum, which is the receiving of the Eucharist for someone who is in the process of dying, and last Confession, somebody who is going to die. Now that doesn’t mean that that person can’t also be anointed as a way of asking for God’s healing, but the association of Anointing of the Sick with the dying needs to be clarified, that many people who are not dying nevertheless receive anointing the sick; whereas the Last Rites, those Sacraments and those prayers and sacramental and liturgical activities, really are oriented towards someone who’s ending his life and is preparing for the next life.

Host: Does that help you, Sarah?

Caller: Yes, thank you.

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