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A Lesson in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

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By Marc Massery (Mar 7, 2018)
Anyone suffering from a serious illness can so easily fall into despair. Thankfully, Jesus, in His mercy, has a Sacrament dedicated to conferring grace and giving strength to those who are sick.

Unfortunately, many people misunderstand this Sacrament, according to Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, the director of the Association of Marian Helpers. They believe that it's meant only for people who are about to die. "You do not need to be terminally ill to receive this Sacrament," Fr. Chris said. "Though it can help prepare someone for death, it's also meant to bring physical, spiritual, or even mental healing if it be in accord with God's will."

The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has its Scriptural basis in the Letter of James, which says: "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).

For centuries, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was conferred only to those on the verge of death, giving it the name "Extreme Unction" or "Last Rites." Thankfully, in 1972, the Apostolic Constitution Sacram Unctionem Infirmorum clarified that the Anointing of the Sick is for anyone suffering from a serious illness.

"One of the biggest problems priests have is when we go to nursing homes and hospitals," said Fr. Chris. "People get scared because they think, 'Oh no, the priest is here and wants to anoint me. That means I'm going to die.' But that is not the case." Father Chris said that God can heal through the Sacrament, if not physically, then at the very least, spiritually.

"Please have no fear. This is not a surrender to death," Fr. Chris said. "This is a hope that God may bring healing. And every time God does allow suffering, He brings a greater good out of it."

With this understanding of this Sacrament in mind, Suzanne Zavatter, the manager of Strategic Development at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, recently asked Fr. Chris to anoint her. Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2015. She had a double mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy. For a year and a half, she was considered cancer free, but in November 2017, the cancer returned. Doctors told her that it had metastasized to her lymph nodes, and they also discovered a few lesions in her brain.

"It did come as a little bit of a shock to me," Suzanne said. "The doctors told me that, statistically, people with this [type of cancer] only live about two years. Some live more, some live less. They had some pretty strong words that were pretty scary to hear."

But Suzanne and her family have a lot of faith and plenty of hope. "This is just a daily exercise in trust," she said. "When any kind of dark doubts start creeping in, I just try and remember myself how much God loves me, and that I need to trust in His plan."

Suzanne believes that the Anointing of the Sick helped to strengthen her faith. "Spiritually I feel strong, not because of me, but because of the Lord. He's helping me feel stronger and more at peace because of the people around me."

Several coworkers from her office donated a vacation day to her so that she could more easily leave work to receive treatment. Dozens of her coworkers, family, and friends have also been joining in prayer daily for her healing through the intercession of Blessed George Matulaitis, the Renovator of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

That prayer is as follows:

Prayer for a Special Grace through the intercession of Blessed George
O God, our Lord and Father, You surround us always by Your care; receive our humble petition, and through the intercession of Blessed George, who suffered so much for Your glory and for the increase of Your Kingdom here on earth, grant me the grace for which I ask You with confidence, promising to live from now on with greater fidelity to Your commandments. Amen.

Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory be to the Father ...


"My son has memorized the prayer. I have not, but he has," said Suzanne, referring to her 13-year-old son, Giordan. "My prayer for him is that no matter what happens, he does not lose faith, and that he understands that God loves him and does not want any of us to be sick and to suffer." 

Visit Marian.org/Suzanne to watch a video of Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, administering the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to Suzanne Zavatter. To learn more about the Sacrament, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1499-1532.

For prayercards with the Prayer for a Special Grace through the Intercession of Blessed George, visit ShopMercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426 (Product code: FM-CBGP).

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