Sacraments of Healing
Sacraments of Healing
Reconciliation (or Penance)
Most parishes offer the sacrament of reconciliation proximate to their weekend Masses, and most priests are available to schedule celebration of the sacrament by appointment. Contact a local parish for times.
Perhaps the most misunderstood and sometimes disliked sacrament is the sacrament of Reconciliation or of Penance. This sacrament is a response to the real sin and brokenness that exists in our world, in our homes and families, and in each of us individually. One of the two sacraments of healing, the Reconciliation or Penance can truly be transformative when approached and received with open and humble hearts. One of the hang-ups people often mention with this sacrament is being required to “go through a man” to be forgiven by God. However, this is not what the Church intends by this sacrament. Rather, the sacrament of penance offers an opportunity for the person to experience the healing ministry of Christ through a representative of the Church. As human beings, we have a great need to hear words of forgiveness spoken when we are conscious of wrongdoing; this sacrament offers Christ’s own words of forgiveness, along with reconciliation with the Church. A fuller understanding of the effects of sin recognizes that the actions of each of us as individuals affect all of us as a community. This sacrament, then, has been given to us by Christ as an opportunity to experience Christ’s presence as we seek to increase unity and communion with God and one another. The sacrament is typically celebrated in a special reconciliation room or chapel, or in a confessional. A priest is the minister of the sacrament.
Pope John Paul II, in 1984, wrote beautifully about the need for reconciliation and penance in our world, and the ways in which it is sought after and experienced, in his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliation and Penance.
Anointing of the Sick
Contact your parish office or your pastor if you or someone close to you wishes to celebrate this sacrament. Sometimes parishes offer communal celebrations of the sacrament on a weekend or specially scheduled liturgy.
Christ who came once on earth to heal the sick comes to us in our physical, spiritual, or emotional illnesses to bring healing, comfort, and compassion. The Second Vatican Council clarified and expanded the instances in which this sacrament may be celebrated. Once known as “last rites” or “Extreme Unction”, it is now more freely available at times of any type of illness in need of a special inbreaking or experience of God’s grace and Christ’s presence. For example, those who struggle with chronic pain, mental illnesses, or emotional difficulties might be comforted by the experience of being anointed. A priest is the minister of this sacrament. The ritual involves prayers for the one who is ill, an anointing with the Oil of the Sick (blessed at the diocesan Chrism Mass each year), and prayers of forgiveness of sins. The minister of this sacrament is a priest.
Along with the increased usage for those who are experiencing any illness, the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick retains its importance in connection with those who are very near death. In these instances it may be accompanied with a reception of the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist when one is very near death is called “Viaticum”, meaning “provisions for the journey”, and has been Christian practice from the early days of Christianity.