Over forty years ago this Sacrament was called Extreme Unction, which means last anointing. It was usually at the last moments of a person’s life that a priest was called to administer this Sacrament. Now, it is given whenever there is a serious illness, or before surgery or in old age.
A baptized Catholic’s forehead and hands are anointed with the Oil of the Sick, a special oil consecrated by the bishop in the cathedral in Holy Week. In the Book of James we read: "Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters 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." (5:14-15)
The effects of this sacrament are the strengthening and comforting of the soul, the remission of sins and, in some cases, the restoration to health. It is presumed that the recipient is well disposed to receiving it. This means that even in the case of an unconscious person, it is known that he or she would be open to receiving the anointing.
We should never be hesitant about calling a priest to administer the anointing to someone who needs it, especially to someone who is at home. When someone is in the hospital or nursing home, it is not necessary to call their parish priest because every one of these facilities is served by a Catholic chaplain. The chaplain daily makes it his duty to see who will benefit and desire this Sacrament.
This sacrament can be received more than once, as in the case of a prolonged illness or when a person becomes sick again after a recovery.
During an illness and also at the point of death, a person can be tempted to despair or anger. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, as well as prayers, serves to thwart evil and bring the comfort of God Himself.