Skip to comments.Lesson 16: Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick
Posted on 04/30/2006 11:21:29 AM PDT by MILESJESU
Fundamentals of Catholicism by Father Robert Altier
Lesson 16: Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick
The first sacrament we will consider is baptism because it is by baptism that a person becomes a member of the Church and participates in the divine life of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual regeneration conferred by the application of water while consecrating the person to the Holy Trinity.
Baptism, then, confers with it a spiritual regeneration, divine adoption, the beginning of eternal life, and conformity to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. By baptism we become children of God and heirs of heaven. We participate in the divine life by the sanctifying grace which is poured into our souls at that moment.
We are also incorporated into the Church, which is the Mystical Person of Christ, so baptism is not just an individual sacrament, but it is also a communal act. It is something which affects all of us.
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Lesson 16: Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick
The first sacrament we will consider is baptism because it is by baptism that a person becomes a member of the Church and participates in the divine life of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual regeneration conferred by the application of water while consecrating the person to the Holy Trinity. Baptism, then, confers with it a spiritual regeneration, divine adoption, the beginning of eternal life, and conformity to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. By baptism we become children of God and heirs of heaven. We participate in the divine life by the sanctifying grace which is poured into our souls at that moment. We are also incorporated into the Church, which is the Mystical Person of Christ, so baptism is not just an individual sacrament, but it is also a communal act. It is something which affects all of us.
Baptism must be done with water, but there are three different ways that a person can be baptized. There can be baptism by immersion, where you dunk the person all the way into a tank or a river or whatever it might be; there is the pouring of water over the forehead of the person; or there can be baptism by sprinkling. Let me explain those. The pouring of water over the forehead is the most common way that baptism is done with babies, but the others are okay. If a baby is in an incubator at the hospital, for instance, then it is simply done by sprinkling. For the baptism to be valid the water must run across the skin, so all you have to do is put a couple of drops of water and let it run. You catch the baby when their head is turned a little bit, put the water on the forehead, and let it run across the forehead. As you put the three drops, you say, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one drop with each. That is actually all you need, provided it runs. It is a minimalist way, but when a baby is in an incubator you do not want to soak the whole thing, and that is what you have to do to make sure you get it done. The immersion can also be done. There are all kinds of interesting stories about that. There is a church out in the suburbs and they built one of these immersion pools. The priest was climbing in there with his alb on, and it came up to his chest. He got out and his clothes were soaking wet, so he went to the Baptist minister down the road and asked, What do you guys do? How do you keep all this from happening? The Baptist minister said, I wear chest waders, and I put lead in the hem of my alb so it stays down. So that is what the priest started to do. Imagine crawling into this immersion pool with chest waders on and everything else. There are easier ways.
But anybody and everybody needs to know the words used in baptism. When you baptize somebody, this is the formula, or the form, for the sacrament: You pronounce the persons name and then say, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, while you are pouring the water over their head at the same time. It is just that simple. They used to teach that to nurses all the time. Unfortunately, in a lot of places they do not anymore. But because anybody can baptize in case of an emergency, it is something all of us need to know. You also have to have the intention to do what the Church intends and the faith on the part of the other person if necessary.
The primary norm for baptism is an adult who makes an act of faith in Jesus and asks the Church for baptism. An adult should be baptized only when they display such a desire. Infants, of course, do not make such an explicit act of faith, but they are baptized into the faith of the Church, as well as their parents and godparents. The godparents are actually the sponsors of the child into the faith. They are the ones whose faith the child is baptized into and they make the vows on behalf of the child. If somebody baptizes in the name of the Creator and the Redeemer and the Sanctifier, or any other bizarre form they might try to come up with, it is an invalid baptism. I should also point out that as Catholics, according to what Saint Paul says, there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We do not rebaptize people who were validly baptized.
Having said that, we need to clarify that there a couple of groups who are not even Christian, but they baptize. Those are the Jehovahs Witnesses and the Mormons. Their baptisms are invalid. Neither the Jehovahs Witnesses nor the Mormons believe in the Holy Trinity. And the Mormons baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and Joseph Smith. When Joseph Smith became the fourth person of the sacred quadrinity, well, we had a real problem. Their baptism is completely invalid, as is the Jehovahs Witnesses baptism and some of these street corner preachers. There is no issue at all about the mainline Protestant faiths, but with some of these little guys running around there is question.
If there is any question about it and a person wants to convert, then we would have to do what is called a conditional baptism. Basically what that says is If you are already baptized then I have no intention to baptize, but if your first attempt at baptism was invalid or if you are not baptized, then I do intend to baptize you. You simply put that conditional intention in there because you do not want to commit a sacrilege and at the same time you do want to baptize the person if they need to be baptized. That is the way it would work.
Regarding the effects of baptism, the first effect is the infusion of sanctifying grace, that point of being justified. That is intrinsic and it produces a real change in the soul. It is something which takes place inside the individual and changes you so that you actually become holy. The second effect of baptism is the remission of all sins, both original and personal, mortal and venial. If there is an adult who is baptized, all their sins are removed everything. They do not have to go to confession before they are received into the Church. Some people breathe quite a sigh of relief. At the same time, there are lots of people who are preparing to be received into the Church and are not baptized who say, But I want to go to confession. That is fine. They can go to confession, but they do not have to. Constantine, for instance, who is the one responsible for allowing Christianity in the West, did not want to have to deal with confession, so he made sure somebody was with him all the time so that when he was dying he could be baptized. He recognized it was the truth, but he did not want to get baptized right away. Well, that is not an option.
It is actually required that parents have their children baptized within a reasonable amount of time after birth, which means within the first few weeks unless there is some other reason why it would be a little bit longer. It would be a mortal sin not to do that. At the same time, I should also point out that because of some of the situations going on today where people are not having their children baptized, grandma (having the right desire) decides, As long as Im babysitting, Im going to take my little grandchild over to the sink and Im going to baptize him. That also is a mortal sin. The child is validly baptized, but it is wrong because it has to be with the permission and the intent of the parents. The parents are the ones who have the legal rights with regard to their children and you cannot go over their heads.
At the moment of baptism, we receive the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. We receive the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. And we also receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Is baptism necessary for salvation? The Lord made it absolutely clear: Unless you are born again of water and the Holy Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, it is. But then what about Gods will that all would be saved? Well, baptism is necessary by the will of God, but if somebody through no fault of their own has no opportunity to be baptized, then we can trust that God will somehow supply for that. That is sometimes called the baptism of desire, that is, the person loves God and does what is necessary for salvation. Every person will be granted the grace necessary for salvation, Saint Thomas tells us that. and it will be done through one of three means: either through an evangelist (this could be your parents or the pastor), through a vision of your guardian angel, or through infused knowledge. If the person is dying and receives this infused knowledge and says, Yes, I want to be baptized, but there is nobody there to do it and they die, the intent was to be baptized. Under normal circumstances, yes, a person needs to be baptized in order to be saved, but God is bigger than the rules so He can do it a different way if He wants to. We cannot decide that we can do it a different way if we want to because these are Gods rules and we have to play by His rules. We need to make sure that is the priority.
Who can baptize? The ordinary minister of baptism is a priest who represents the bishop. Deacons also can baptize. In cases of emergency, meaning danger of death, anyone even a heretic or a nonbaptized person can baptize provided that the proper matter, form, and intention are employed. If baby coughs, that is not sufficient reason for grandma to run to the sink. If baby is dying, there is very good reason to head for the sink, but not if the baby just has a cold or something like that.
When we talk about proper matter, form, and intention, what would happen if a couple was on the way to the baptism of their little baby and got into a traffic accident and the baby was not doing well and they did not have any water? Could they pull out motor oil? No, it is not water. You could say, Theyve got a thermos with some day-old coffee sitting in the back seat, can they use that? After all, its water that just got run through coffee grounds, isnt that okay? Its 99% water, isnt it? If you asked somebody what it was, they would say it was coffee, so then it is not water. It has to be water. If you ask somebody what is in a mud puddle, they would say water. It is muddy water, but it is water. That is acceptable. But if it is coffee or tea or something like that, even though it is basically all water, that is not what we would recognize it to be. We would all say, Thats coffee. We would not say it is water with coffee flavor. It has to be water and you have to have the proper form and intention to do what the Church intends with regard to baptism.
Having asked that question, the next obvious question is: Who can be baptized? Every living person who is not yet baptized is capable of receiving the sacrament. Anyone who is not baptized can be baptized, provided they make that act of faith and have the desire to receive the sacrament. Baptism, of course, is the first sacrament and critically important. Although we have only spent a short time on it, which hardly gives proper due to such an important sacrament, we need to keep going.
Let us take a look at the second sacrament, that is, confirmation. It does not mean it is the second sacrament in the order of reception; however, the Eastern rites and the Orthodox give the three sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist) at the same time. Babies receive all three of those sacraments in the Eastern rites of the Church, so it is second in that sense. And it is just as we do with adults. When an adult is received in the Church, we baptize them if they need to be baptized, they receive the sacrament of confirmation, and then they receive Holy Communion all in the same evening. That is why we look at this sacrament second.
Confirmation is a sacrament of spiritual strengthening. It is actually what the word means: to confirm, to firm something up, to strengthen it, to build it up. This strengthening comes from a special conferral of the Holy Spirit upon those who have already been baptized. Confirmation is conferred by a laying on of hands and an anointing on the forehead with sacred chrism. Confirmation perpetuates Pentecost in the Church. As the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, they began to speak in tongues. These men, who five minutes earlier were scared to death, suddenly had the courage to go out and start preaching the Gospel and were fearless, even to the point that they were willing to be martyred.
And every last one of them with the exception of Saint John was martyred. They tried with Saint John, but it did not work, so they finally threw him in a cave out on Patmos and let him sit there. They had tried boiling him in oil, and it did not work for them, so they finally gave up on it. But the other ones were all martyred, some of them in particularly gruesome ways. Saint Simon the Zealot, for instance, was sawed in half. Saint Bartholomew was flayed; they cut his skin off. We know Saint Peter was crucified upside down. Saint Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross. Saint Jude was beaten with a club. Saint Thomas was run through with a spear. Saint Paul had his head cut off. There were some pretty gross things that these unfortunate people did. There is one who was not an apostle but certainly died in a most intriguing way, and that is Saint Lawrence. They grilled him. They lit a fire underneath him and put him on a grill and roasted him. He taunted them toward the end, saying, I think Im done on this side; you can turn me over now.
God provides in extraordinary ways for the martyrs that some of them do not even feel the pain of what they are going through. They give their life for Christ, but then He just takes care of it and gives them the grace to be able to handle it. It is a gift we can all pray for, to be able to be martyrs, to be willing to suffer for the Lord. That is what confirmation does for us. It strengthens us so we can live heroic Christian lives. That is the idea of it. It takes what is already there, what is given in baptism, and strengthens it and builds it up and makes us stronger in bearing witness to Christ.
It is also clear in the Acts of the Apostles that the apostles imposed hands on people for the conferral of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere do we see Jesus explicitly telling them to do that, but nonetheless that is the norm they used, and that is why it continues to be used. In the imposition of hands, the bishop would hold his hands out over the group of people, or if it were an individual he would simply place his hands on the head of the person. From the earliest times, there is evidence of this imposition of hands. That goes all the way back even further than Christianity; the Jewish people used to do some of that. And we know that the use of oil goes back at least to the 3rd century. It could go back further than that; we do not know. There were not a lot of records kept in the early Church because of the persecutions. They did not write down any of these things, and they all had to be memorized by the priest. A lot of things were not written down early on so that nobody could get their hands on it. When the priest died, all that knowledge died with him. After the Church was made legal, all kinds of things started to be written down because there was not the concern that the churches were going to be raided and the sacraments would somehow be violated through someone trying to do something sacrilegious.
The essence of this sacrament of confirmation consists in an anointing with sacred chrism. Sacred chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam. It has a sweet smell to it because of the balsam that is in it, and it is consecrated by the bishop. Normally that will take place on Holy Thursday, but it can be moved to a different time if there is a legitimate reason. Holy Thursday tends to be a busy time, so most dioceses will move it up a week or two so that it is done during Lent at some point at what is called the Chrism Mass. At that Mass, the bishop will bless all of the oils: the oil of the infirm (the one we use for the anointing of the sick), the holy oil, and the sacred chrism. All of those would be blessed at the Chrism Mass.
There is the anointing with this chrism on the forehead, along with the laying on of hands. There is the laying on of hands first and the prayer that goes with it, and then the anointing with oil on the forehead with the pronunciation of these words: Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. For those who are looking at being brought into the Church or being confirmed, you can receive a new name at confirmation. Most of us did not have any choice in our baptismal name, but we can have a choice in our confirmation name. If there is a saint you would like to emulate, you can choose that saints name and you will be confirmed according to that title, to the name of that saint. So something you can think about, if you are going to be received into the Church, is what name would you like to be confirmed with.
The imposition of hands is something that goes back to ancient Israel. It is a gesture of blessing, and it is an apt symbol for the Holy Spirit coming to possess the soul. Taking your hand from above and laying it down on somebodys head is a symbol of the Holy Spirit descending upon the person. In the ancient world, anointing was given only to three classes of people: priests, prophets, and kings. When we anoint somebody at baptism with sacred chrism on the forehead, as well as at confirmation, it shows that the person is a priest, a prophet, and a king as a member of Jesus Christ. When we looked at Jesus in a previous lesson, we said that He is a Priest, a Prophet, and a King. At baptism, we become a member of Jesus Christ and we become part of the fullness of Christ, which means we share in that threefold office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king.
The sacramental grace of confirmation is the completion for the perfection of baptism. All the things that happen at baptism are completed and strengthened with this sacrament. The bishop is the ordinary minister of confirmation. However, the priest, by reason of ordination, also has the power to confirm. This is restricted usually to danger of death or the receiving of an older child or adult into the Church (somebody who is also going to be baptized or a convert being brought into full communion with the Church). Those would be valid reasons for a priest to confirm. Also, because the sacrament is ordered to the strengthening and the perfection of the baptized, it can be given any time after baptism.
In many dioceses now, it is given when the kids are in high school. Traditionally, it has generally been given in junior high, seventh or eighth grade. Some places are going back further than that to second or third grade; they are saying, Wait a minute. If this sacrament has the power were saying it has, why are we waiting until it is too late? Why dont we give this to the kids early on that way they can discern their vocation and the grace of the Holy Spirit is there to help them in the times of temptation? If this is going to help us to live an heroic Christian life, teenage kids need to have this. If you think about the temptations that are there, the pressures that are on them, they should have this sacrament. You can understand why the bishops would want to wait until they are in tenth or eleventh grade because they want them to keep learning. What happens for parishes when the kids are confirmed in eighth grade is that it is the last time you ever see them. They go to class through eighth grade, they get confirmed, and they are gone. How much do you know when you are in eighth grade? So they are looking at it practically and saying, Well, if we can at least keep them up to tenth or eleventh grade, they will be able to grasp a little bit more of their faith. But I think that is really using the sacrament wrongly. You can understand their reasoning behind it, but to hold a carrot out just to keep somebody going to class is not the way to go. If we really want these kids to be able to live their faith, we should give them the sacraments earlier on and then trust that the Holy Spirit in their soul is going to move them to want to learn, to be able to grow, but also to keep them out of sin. In the midst of all the temptations and the peer pressure to do bad things, that sacrament is there to help them, so why wait? If that sacramental grace can be there at an earlier time, so much the better. The longer you wait, the less time you have with that grace. We would not tell people to wait to get baptized, so why do we tell them to wait to be confirmed? It does not make a whole lot of sense. That is why I think they confirm people in the East immediately after they are baptized, as little kids. Rather than saying, We need to get them up to snuff with education before they can receive Communion or confirmation, they say, Lets confirm them and give them Communion, and then teach them what it is. It is to teach them who they are and what they have already received as opposed to teaching them and then receiving the sacrament as the end of the process. It can go either way, obviously. You can see the reasoning in both of them, but it just seems to me that if we really believe in what we teach we really need to look at getting this sacrament to people when they are younger so they can be helped through the difficult years.
Confirmation is not absolutely necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for perfection in the Christian life. If we want to grow in holiness and we want to live heroic Christian lives, it will not be done without this sacrament. It is critically important. I should also point out that a lot of young people, because they are waiting now until tenth or eleventh grade, are not getting confirmed because they fall through the cracks. Pretty soon they show up and they want to get married, and they have never been confirmed. This is something that should be done before marriage. It is not absolutely necessary that you be confirmed before you get married, but you should be. Ask any married couple: Do you need heroic virtue to be married? Yes, you do. It is not an easy way of life. It takes a saint to be able to live a truly Catholic marriage. Again, that grace is there from this sacrament to be able to help you to do that. As I mentioned earlier, baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist together are known as the sacraments of initiation because they initiate the believer into the fullness of the Christian life. When those three sacraments have been received, the person is fully incorporated into the Church. You are incorporated into the Church at baptism, but you become a member in the fullest sense of that when you receive all three of the sacraments.
Now we need to look at a rather forgotten sacrament, and that is the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Any of you who are older may remember that this sacrament was called extreme unction. Extreme unction means the last anointing. But the new name for it is the anointing of the sick, which is actually a better name in that it describes the true meaning of the sacrament better. That is, one does not have to be at the point of death in order to receive the sacrament. There still has to be a danger of death, a serious danger of death. When we say it is the sacrament of the sick, it does not mean that if you feel a little bit ill you can get this sacrament. That is not the point. It means that if there is a serious illness, if there is a serious surgery you are going to undergo, if there is some danger of death a real, true danger of death then you would be able to receive the sacrament and should receive the sacrament. It is a very powerful sacrament, a very beautiful sacrament.
This sacrament can be defined as the sacrament in virtue of which the sick Christian by the anointing of oil and the prayer of the priest receives the grace of God for the supernatural salvation of his soul and often also for the healing of his body. The ancients saw in oil, especially olive oil, a sign of strength and health. You see that, for instance, in Psalm 23 when the shepherd pours oil on the head of the sheep that is sick. You see it several times. They did not understand why that would help, but they knew that when they did that the sheep got better. Well, today we can look at it and say that what actually happened is the sheep was dehydrating and putting oil on its head clogged the pores so it did not lose any more moisture. The moisture stayed inside and the sheep started getting better. It is a simple thing, but they recognized that when they did this with oil the sheep got better, so that is what they did. They would also use the oil with regard to people. It does have some medicinal powers. They believed it had lots of medicinal powers, so it was used to treat the sick. The Church also saw this and it is fitting that Jesus would use oil as the visible sign of the sacrament. He sent His apostles out and told them to anoint the sick with oil, and so that is what they did. We see it also in Saint James when he says, Are there people sick among you? Let them send for the priest of the Church. Let the priest pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of the faithful saves the sick person, and if they have committed any sins, their sins will be forgiven them. Exactly what this sacrament is all about is right there in Sacred Scripture.
The sacrament is administered by a laying on of hands and an anointing on the forehead and the palms of the hands. The older form of the sacrament anointed all five of the senses and it would also anoint the area where the person was in pain or where the problem was. With modern medicine, that can be quite problematic, so thanks be to God we do not have to do that anymore. Under normal circumstances, then, it is an anointing on the forehead and the palms of the hands. If the sick person is a priest, he would be anointed on the back of the hands because the palms of his hands have already been anointed. It is a little thing you never have to worry about, just trivia in case you are ever asked. Also, it does not absolutely have to be the head and the hands that are anointed; it just has to be the skin. In other words, when a priest goes to the emergency room and the doctors are working on the person and he cannot get anywhere near their head, he just finds some skin somewhere and gets them anointed. But under normal circumstances it is just the forehead and the palms of the hands.
The spiritual effects of this sacrament are the salvation of the soul and the healing of the body. The spiritual effects also include the bestowal of sanctifying grace, the forgiveness of sin, comfort in sickness, strength against temptation as death approaches, and preparation for immediate entrance into heaven by the remission of venial sins and the cleansing of the soul from moral weakness and indifference that is caused by sin. There is a lot that goes on in this sacrament. Normally a person should confess their sins prior to receiving the sacrament, but if the person is unconscious, the sacrament will take care of it all. The sins will be automatically removed at the moment they receive the sacrament, provided that they would have gone to confession and would have wanted to receive the sacrament if they were conscious. But if the person is not conscious, it takes care of all of it.
Sometimes there is bodily healing attached to the sacrament. Oftentimes it is not necessarily miraculous, but I will tell you a few stories which demonstrate that sometimes it definitely is. It is oftentimes indirect. The indirect nature of it has to do with the connection between the body and the soul. When the soul is purified, you get rid of all the sin and all the things that are there Because the soul is where the mind and the will are and that is being expressed through the body, oftentimes you see a sudden restoration come about. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would always say, After the priest comes, the person usually gets better for just a little bit; not entirely, but at least for a little bit. He would always tell us that. I had no clue what he meant at the time. But when my grandmother was dying (she had a couple of major strokes and a whole bunch of little ones), she was completely out of it. She had no clue who the people were standing around her bed. After the priest came and anointed her, she sat up and called each one of her children by name, talked to them, laid down, went out of it and died. That kind of thing happens with this sacrament. All of a sudden there was a healing in the soul and there was the ability to be able to function where that ability had not been there moments before. Sometimes this sort of thing can happen. It is just a natural thing that when God removes the sin, which is a supernatural thing, then the soul, which is natural, is able to function more perfectly.
A couple of other stories for you. When I was first ordained, I was on quite a roll because every person that I anointed in my first year died within 24 hours. I thought this was pretty good. Get them to heaven before they have an opportunity to sin again was my goal. I used to joke with the secretary of the parish that if somebody called to be anointed they should ask whether they wanted to live or die so we would know which priest to send. The pastor seemed to be pretty good about keeping them alive, and I seemed to be pretty good about getting them ready to go to heaven. Anyway, one day that suddenly all changed. I was the emergency on-call chaplain at North Memorial in Robbinsdale, and they would fly people in on the helicopter because they had a trauma center there. They would call and say, Get here immediately. Well keep the person alive until you get here, just get here. It was amazing because every time I would go there, all the stoplights and stop signs would disappear and I would go about 80 miles per hour and there was never a policeman anywhere. On the way home, all the stop signs and stoplights were back in place and the speed limit was back where it belonged, but getting to the hospital was never a problem. The Lord just took care of it. Anyway, this kid had been flown in on a helicopter literally in pieces. He was riding on one of these all-terrain vehicles in a ditch along the highway, and he hopped up out of the ditch and there was a car coming at 60 miles per hour that hit him and wrapped his head around the speed limit sign. When he came in, he had punctured lungs, one of his arms ripped off, and his head was excessively swollen from hitting the sign. They called and said, Theres nothing we can do for this kid; get here as soon as you can. Well keep him alive until you can get here, just get here and get him anointed. I went there, got him anointed, and talked to his family for a while. Three weeks later, he went home. Before the anointing, the doctors had given up on him, saying there was nothing they could do. So this sort of thing can happen.
There was a woman who was baptized here about ten years ago, and she was in her seventies when we baptized her. She was a pretty miraculous woman anyway who had been out in California. There was a doctor who had just devised some new form of heart surgery where he could put a patch on an aneurysm on the heart, and he was there at this particular hospital, the only doctor in the world who was able to do this new form of surgery at the time, giving a conference to heart surgeons on how to do this operation. This woman had her heart blow out and they rushed her to the hospital and the only doctor in the world who could save her was right there giving a conference on how to do this. So they dragged all the heart surgeons down there and he showed them how to do it! And she is still alive. Then she came up to Minnesota and a number of years later was baptized. About a year or two after she was baptized, she was in very bad shape, so they took her to the hospital. The doctors said, There is nothing we can do for her. If we do surgery, it will kill her; but if we dont do surgery, shes going to die because of her heart. Either way, shes going to die. Then her family said, Wed like to take her down to the Mayo Clinic. They had all the test results, all the things the doctors had done, and they brought her here to the church and we got her anointed. Then she went to the Mayo Clinic. The doctors there said, Theres nothing wrong with her. We can see all the test results and we know what was wrong yesterday, but theres nothing wrong with her today. Well, the only thing that happened in between is that she got anointed.
There is another situation that just happened fairly recently involving a young woman, 23 years old, who is with child. Apparently, at about 4-5 months gestation, the blood supply in the woman doubled and at that point she had an aneurysm in the brain stem. They could not do surgery because if they did it would wipe her out anyway, and if the bleeding did not stop she would die. They could not give her drugs because of the baby and they could not lower her blood pressure too far because of the baby, so they could not figure out what to do. I went down to the hospital and they came to explain the situation. There was absolutely nothing they could do for her. So then we got her anointed and her family took her to the Mayo Clinic. The doctor at the Mayo Clinic said to the family, You guys better get down on your knees and thank God for the doctor in Saint Paul who helped you because he saved this girls life. Well, the doctors at the hospital had admitted there was nothing they could do because there was nothing that would be able to help her, and the only thing in between was that she got anointed. He was right in saying, You need to get down on your knees, but it was not to thank the doctor it was to thank the Divine Physician for what happened because it was the Lord who did it. And the family understood that. They said, Wait a second, there was only one thing that happened in between, that is, we prayed and she got anointed.
Another example is with the elderly people. When you have some of these people who have been so faithful to God throughout their lives, oftentimes what happens nowadays is that their kids abandon the Faith and now they are dying and nobody thinks to have the priest come and get them anointed. I remember this one little, old lady. She was just hanging on and hanging on and hanging on. The doctors kept saying, Your mother will be dead tonight. Shell be dead before morning. The next day she was still there. Well, shell be dead before morning. Two weeks later she was still there. Finally her 40-year-old child says, Maybe I should call a priest. I got there and anointed her, and she died several hours later. She was faithful to God throughout her life; He was faithful to her in death. He did not take her until she was anointed. Her soul was ready to go home, and then she could go. This kind of thing happens.
This sacrament is so beautiful. I always say, Dont leave this world without it. It is that powerful. If one of your relatives winds up in a serious situation, you need to make sure that, number one, you call a priest. They used to do that all the time. People knew that. If there was a problem, you called a priest because there was not much the doctors could do. Nowadays with modern technology, there is a lot the doctors can do. So, of course, they do not think about calling the priest, and the doctors do not even think about it. I remember standing in a room in the cardiac unit and this woman started going into cardiac arrest. The doctor looked at me and said, Youve go to get out of here! I said, No, I dont. Ill do my work on this side of the bed; you do your work on that side. As soon as Im done, Ill go. He did not get it. He thought that the only reason I should be there was to hold the persons hand and be nice to them and calm them down. He had no clue what the sacraments were all about.
It depends on the individual you are working with. When the Catholic hospitals were around, the nuns always made sure that was taken care of. They would meet you at the door when someone went to the hospital in an ambulance, and they would say, The priest has already been here. Weve gotten then anointed. But you do not have that anymore. The nurses do not think about it, so you need to think about it. And for yourself, you need to make sure you let your family members know that you want to be anointed, because they may not think about it. This is such a beautiful sacrament. Do not allow yourself to be without it. You see again the mercy of God. He gave us sacraments all the way through our lives, from baptism at the very beginning of our lives, through marriage, and all the way through to the end of our life. At every major moment in our lives, there is a sacrament that the Lord has taken care of so that we will not be without His grace or without His help in all the important things of our lives. This is one of those sacraments, and it is so powerful that I cannot overstate the power of this sacrament. It is so beautiful and so forgotten these days. Make sure that people know this is something you want.
With regard to this sacrament, sickness or old age that involves some danger of death are sufficient reasons to be anointed, but there needs to be a danger of death. It does not have to be an absolute danger of death (every person is going to die), but a serious danger of death. The person must also be baptized and have reached the age of reason. One does not have to be dying in order to receive the sacrament, but a prudent judgment about the seriousness of the illness is sufficient. Normally a person would receive this sacrament only once during a particular illness, but if there is a relapse or if the person suddenly starts going down then they can receive it again. Let us say they have cancer and so they get anointed at first, then if at a certain point they suddenly take a turn for the worse, they can get anointed again as long as there has been a fair amount of time in between. You would not do it just a couple of days apart or even a week or two apart, but within a fair amount of time. Also, those who are about to undergo major surgery should be anointed prior to going into surgery.
Like all of the sacraments, this sacrament is for the living. Again, we cannot anoint somebody who is already dead. Since there is a dubium about exactly when the soul leaves the body, a conditional anointing can be done within a short period of time after the person stops breathing. It might sound a little morbid, but the way we deal with it is to say, If the body is still warm, then we can do a conditional anointing. If the body is not warm at all, then we cannot. There is a story about a priest from the Cathedral. They would take care of United Hospital, and the priest got called to the hospital to anoint somebody. The nurse met him and walked him down to where the room was, and he said, Ive never been to this part of the hospital before. It was way down in the basement. He thought, This is odd that they would have somebody way down in the basement. All of a sudden, the nurse stopped and entered into a room the morgue and pulled the body out of the refrigerator. He said, I cant anoint him! She said, Why not? He said, For the same reason you cant give him a shot of penicillin; it isnt going to do him any good. The person has to be alive or just recently dead, as there is this dubium about exactly when the soul leaves. So the conditional anointing would simply say, If you are still here, then I anoint you. If you arent, then I dont.
I could tell you story after story after story about this sacrament because it is just so powerful. I cannot say enough about it. Make sure that you do not die without it. That is the main thing. It is there to help us, to prepare us for death, to prepare us for immediate entrance into heaven, and to strengthen us against the temptations of the devil. We talked about that before, how the last hour of death is going to be the most severe of all the attacks of the devil. It is the most important hour of our entire life because if we choose against God at that moment, especially at the moment of death, there is not any repenting. We need the help; that is why we keep praying in the Hail Mary: now and at the hour of our death because that is when we need the help the most. This will help us. It prepares us. It calms things down, strengthens things, and prepares the soul to be able to enter into eternity. It is a very important sacrament, a very misunderstood sacrament and a very forgotten sacrament these days. Make sure that you do not forget about it.
Just another little story. I was talking to a hospital chaplain a couple of years ago. He had gotten a phone call in the middle of the night and the nurse on the phone said, Theres a family here and theyve requested a priest. He talked to her a little while and she said, I dont think theyre Catholic. He said, Really? Why dont you put one of the family members on. So they put a family member on the phone and the priest said, I understand that youve requested a priest. Yes, thats right. Well, are you Catholic? No, were not Catholic. Why did you want a priest to come? We dont know, but we remembered that in the movies they always say, Call a priest. So thats what we did! They had no idea why they were doing it, but they thought it was what they were supposed to do. At least now you know why you are supposed to call a priest. Get him there. It is that important. If there is a serious surgery, if there is someone in serious danger of death, do not forget to call the priest. Doctors can do extraordinary things these days, and God bless them for that, but do not forget to call the priest. Just because doctors can do a lot of things does not mean they can do everything, and God can help them an awful lot anyway. We can get the spiritual part taken care of and they can handle the physical part, but we need to make sure we are taking care of the soul first and foremost, and the body secondary.
The Lord be with you. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain with you forever. Amen.
[End of Lesson 16]
Lesson 16: Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick PING!
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Lesson 16: Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick BUMP
Dear Freepers in Christ,
Here is an awesome talk by Father Altier on Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the Sick.
His Explanation of Baptism is very good. Freeper NYer will most definitely like it.
IN THE RISEN LORD JESUS CHRIST,
FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLICISM BUMP
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