Summary Against Modern Thought: Extreme Unction

Summary Against Modern Thought: Extreme Unction

Previous post.

It is well to remember that someday you will die.


1 Now, the body is the instrument of the soul, and an instrument is for the use of the principal agent: therefore, the disposition of the instrument necessarily must be such as becomes the principal agent. Hence, the body is disposed in harmony with the soul.

Therefore, from the infirmity of the soul which is sin infirmity sometimes flows into the body, when the divine judgment so disposes. To be sure, this bodily infirmity is at times useful for the soundness of the soul: so far as a man bears bodily infirmity humbly and patiently, and so far as it is reckoned as satisfying punishment for him.

At times, also, it tends to hinder spiritual health: so far as bodily infirmity hinders the virtues. Therefore, it was suitable to employ some spiritual medicine against sin, in accord with the fact that bodily infirmity flows out of sin; indeed, this spiritual medicine cures the bodily infirmity at times, namely, when this is helpful to salvation. And for this a sacrament was established extreme unction, about which James (5:14-15) says: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall heal the sick man.”

Notes It is now, in the West, an utterly baffling notion that one should suffer for anything.

2 Nor is the power of this sacrament prejudiced if at times the sick on whom it is conferred are not wholly cured of this bodily infirmity, for the restoration of bodily health—even in those who receive the sacrament worthily—sometimes is not useful for salvation. And they do not, for all that, receive it in vain, although bodily health may not follow on it.

For, since this sacrament is set against bodily infirmity so far as this follows on sin, this sacrament manifestly was established against the other consequences of sin, which are proneness to evil and difficulty in good, and it is set so much the more as the soul’s infirmities of this sort are closer neighbors to sin than bodily infirmity is. Indeed, spiritual infirmities of this sort are to be cured by penance, in that the works of virtue which the penitent performs when he makes satisfaction withdraw him from evils and incline him to good.

But, since man, whether due to negligence, or to the changing occupations of life, or even to the shortness of time, or to something else of the sort, does not perfectly heal within himself the weaknesses mentioned, a healthful provision for him is made by this sacrament: it completes the healing aforesaid, and it delivers him from the guilt of temporal punishment; as a result, nothing remains in him when the soul leaves the body which can obstruct the soul in the perception of glory.

And therefore James adds: “And the Lord shall raise him up.” Perhaps, also, a man has neither awareness nor memory of all the sins which he has committed, so that they may be washed away individual by penance. There are also those daily sins without which one does not lead this present life. And from these a man ought to be cleansed at his departure by this sacrament, so that nothing be found in him which would clash with the perception of glory. And therefore James adds: “If he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

3 Hence, it is clear that this sacrament is the last, that it somehow tends to consummate the entire spiritual healing, and that in it a man is, as it were, prepared for the perception of glory. For this reason also it is named extreme unction.

4 From this it is apparent that this sacrament is not to be given to anyone at all who is sick, but only to those who seem in their weakness to be approaching the end. Nevertheless, if they get well, the sacrament can be conferred on them again if they return to a similar situation. For the anointing in this sacrament involves no consecration, as does the anointing in confirmation, or the washing in baptism, and certain other anointings which are never repeated—simply because the consecration always remains, so long as the thing consecrated endures, because of the effectiveness of the divine power which consecrates. But the anointing of this sacrament is ordered toward healing, and healing medicine ought to be repeated as often as the weakness is repeated.

5 We grant that some are in a state close to death even without infirmity—this is clear in the case of those condemned to death—and they nevertheless would need the spiritual effects of this sacrament, but it is not to be given unless such a one is sick, since it is given under the appearance of bodily medicine, which is fitting only for one who has been weakened in the body. For in the sacraments the character of the sign must be maintained. Therefore, just as baptism requires that washing be used on a body, so this sacrament requires that medicine be applied for bodily weakness. Hence, also, oil is the special matter of this sacrament, because it has effectiveness for bodily healing by alleviating pain; just as water which cleans the body is the matter of the sacrament in which spiritual cleansing takes place.

6 Therein one also sees that, just as bodily medicine must be applied at the source of the infirmity, so this anointing is used on those parts of the body from which the weakness of sin proceeds: such are the organs of the senses, and the hands and feet by which the works of sin are carried On, and—in accord with the custom of some—the loins in which the libidinous force is strong.

Notes I recall some 1970s kung fu movie in which a man purposely sits in oil from the waist down so that his peccant parts waste away. That is going too far.

7 But, since sins are forgiven by this sacrament, and no sin, of course, is forgiven except by grace, manifestly grace is conferred in this sacrament.

8 Now, when things bestow enlightening grace on the mind, their use is proper only to priests, for their order tends to enlighten, as Dionysius says. Neither does this sacrament require a bishop, since this sacrament does not confer a state of excellence, as is the case with those whose minister is a bishop.

9 Nonetheless, since this sacrament has a perfect cure as its effect, and an abundance of grace is required in it, it becomes this sacrament to have many priests present, and to have the prayer of the whole Church help in the effect. Hence, James says: “Let him bring in the priests of the Church… and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man.” If, nonetheless, only one priest is present, it is understood that he fulfills this sacrament in the power of the entire Church whose minister he is, and which, in person, he represents.

10 Of course, the effect of this sacrament is obstructed by pretense in the receiver, just as can be the case with the other sacraments.


  1. Richard Stadter

    Not familiar with this concept but, as explained, it seems to fly in the face of Jesus saying that a man’s condition was not due to his sin, or others, but that the power of God be shown. Does not patient endurance lead to sanctification? Does suffering not cause us to turn to God in dependence? Lastly, I recognize repentance and dependence rather than penance. James words are true, but I’m not sure of this application of them.

  2. Vermont Crank

    How sad that Non-Catholics can not benefit from this beautiful and powerful Sacrament

    There exists an ancient axiom (perhaps Pope St. Leo the Great?) describing what a Sacrament is

    The Risen Christ has passed over into the Sacraments

    but the modern church does not want to teach that truth to the world because of ecumenism; that is it thinks that truth is divisive ( it is, truth divides) and, thus, leads to exclusivity (it does) and arrogance (it doesn’t because the truth is not a thing invented by the Church but a reality dispensed to it by Jesus Christ and the truth is meant to be shared.)

    In fact, its is part of the great Commission.

  3. C-Marie

    “It has long been recognized that serious illness saps the spiritual resources and physical strength of the sufferers so that they are not able to meet the crisis of mortal danger with all their powers. Anointing of the sick was widely practiced from apostolic times as a sacramental rite in association with the ceremony of the imposition of hands to convey a blessing or recovery from illness or with the last Communion to fortify the believer safely on his or her new career in the fuller life of the eternal world.”

    St. Thomas Aquinas lived from 1225-1274.

    “Extreme Unction was the usual name for the sacrament in the West from the late twelfth century until 1972, and was thus used at the Council of Trent and in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.”

    So, When Aquinas wrote, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was named the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.

    ” . 14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” James 5: 14-15.

    Clearly, the prayer of Faith shall save the sick man. Save from what? From the sickness.

    And, Paul wrote that “…. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31But earnestly desire the greater gifts.” 1 Corinthians 12: 28-31.

    So, if the Catholic Church Hierarchy would receive from the Holy Spirit the gifts that He has for them, and would use them, much of healings could and would take place.

    Plus, it would be wonderful if they received all of those gifts, including prophecy, for prophecy is for the edifying of the Body of Christ, as in calling the Body of Christ back to faithfulness through repentance. If the edifying had been going on all of these years, the Church would not be in the difficulties of today.

    God bless, C-Marie

  4. James 5:14 says: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church”.
    Every Christian was a priest back then.

  5. John B()

    Marie – Interesting

    Peter – Amen

    VC : My Roman Catholic Mother married my (ostensibly) Episcopalian Father. He’d taken classes for conversion but hadn’t pulled the trigger (so to speak). All us kids were raised Catholic and my father supported the Parish. When the pastor sent letters of “assessment” regarding a new building, the pastor assessed our family $0 because of our family size and my father’s working class status. My father instructed my mother to close their credit union savings account and bring it to the pastor. He mostly attended church with the family until us kids were older.

    When my Father retired, he attended a new church with my mother since my mother could not drive there. When my father was on his death bed my brother sent for a priest from the Parish that my brother worked for. When the priest came and finished looking in on my father, He told my brother, “I came here expecting to give comfort to your father, but I think I received more comfort from him than he from me.”

    When my father passed, the new Church gave him a “full” (or as full as possible given the circumstances) funeral and he was buried in a Catholic Cemetery.

  6. Vermont Crank

    Every Christian man was a priest.

    Every Christian woman was a nun.

    Every Christian child was an Altar server.

    Every Christian family’s house was a church.

    Every one of their pets spoke with Dr. Doolittle.

    It was a great time to be alive because every Christian family raised unicorns.

    John BQ Did your father receive Extreme Unction?

  7. C-Marie

    “presbyter, (from Greek presbyteros, “elder”), an officer or minister in the early Christian Church intermediate between bishop and deacon or, in modern Presbyterianism, an alternative name for elder. The word presbyter is etymologically the original form of “priest.” is from the Brittanica.
    The words, elder, presbyter, priest, mean the same, are the same title.

    So, no, every Christian back then, was not an elder, presbyter, priest. The rank of presbyter, priest, elder, was between Bishop and Deacon, and they were appointed by the Apostles at first, and then by the Bishops.

    “Now there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium: and, persuading the multitude and stoning Paul, drew him out of the city, thinking him to be dead. 20{19}But as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up and entered into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

    The Return to Syrian Antioch
    21{20}And when they had preached the gospel to that city and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch: 22{21}Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith: and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. 23{22}And when they had ordained to them priests in every church and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed.

    24{23}And passing through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia. 25{24}And having spoken the word of the Lord in Perge, they went down into Attalia.

    The Report to the Church at Antioch
    26{25}And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been delivered to the grace of God, unto the work which they accomplished. 27{26}And when they were come and had assembled the church, they related what great things God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28{27}And they abode no small time with the disciples.” Acts 14.

    We the faithful are to pray in fullness of faith for all of needs and those of others.. God moves as He wills, in His time and in His way. Know that God hears our prayers. Keep faith with Him.

    God bless, C-Marie

  8. C-Marie: The Greek word for ‘priest’ in the New Testament is ‘hiereus’, and ‘archiereus’ for ‘high priest’. This is very different from presbyteros (elder or presbyter). The Greek word used for the priesthood of the faithful is ‘hiereus’ (cf. Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6)

  9. john b()

    Vermont Crank

    No – He never converted

  10. John B()


    I hadn’t fully comprehended your original take on ecumenism and I may also have taken off on something Marie said. “serious illness saps the spiritual resources and physical strength of the sufferers so that they are not able to meet the crisis of mortal danger with all their powers”. Yes! The cancer had depleted his physical powers but I think it’s fair to say his spiritual powers were always at peak with his Faith in Christ.
    My father attended Mass with the family, never partook in Holy Communion
    The priest came to my father’s bedside at the behest of my brother but not to administer Extreme Unction
    (I’m certain he would be allowed to “bless” him but outside of any sacrament.)
    I don’t know what or how his funeral was accomplished nor his burial (It was 40+ years ago, my mother passed 10-15 years ago)
    While not poor my parents were certainly not rich. Their retirement church saw my parents most every Sunday – it was a small rural community and my folks together took part in many church fairs and events. Some at the church may even have been surprised at his not being Roman Catholic. They saw fit to allow his funeral but on what basis I couldn’t say.

    As C. Marie would say, God Bless

  11. C-Marie

    I am filled with joy that your father chose Jesus!!
    Much may well go on between a loved one and God.

    God bless, C-Marie

  12. Vermont Crank

    John BQ TY

    As to priests and the problem of conflation:

    885. You have spoken often of Priests. Do you regard their ordination as a Sacrament?

    Among the seven Sacraments is that of Holy Orders. Its institution by Christ, its visible rite, and the fact that it gives grace are all clearly shown in Scripture. Thus St. Paul says that Christ “gave Apostles, Evangelists, Pastors, etc., for the work of the ministry.” Eph. IV., 12. Ordaining by the imposition of hands is often mentioned, and Timothy was told not to neglect the grace of God “which is in thee by the imposition of hands.” I. Tim. IV., 14. Rightly ordained Priests alone have the right to teach the Gospel authoritatively and carry on its sacred ministry.

    886. Does not St. Peter say that all Christians are a holy priesthood?

    Yes, and in a certain sense it is true. Baptism implies a certain consecration to God, and the obligation to offer the sacrifice of praise by a sincere life of prayer and of good works. He points out that, as the Jews were a chosen race, so the baptized are the chosen race to day. But the Jews had in addition specially chosen men consecrated as Priests among themselves. Thus, whilst Christians are a chosen race now, offering the sacrifice of praise and of a pure life to God, certain men must be chosen from among them to offer the special Sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood, and to forgive sins. In this sense not all Christians are Priests.

  13. Vermont Crank

    Damn. I’ve been feeding a troll.


    I’ve been a bit late to awaken to that

  14. L Ron Hubbard alias John B()


    I didn’t realize you wanted me to respond

    With the number/question/answer, they looked like excerpts from some book and just something for me or anyone to ruminate on.

    But not really offended if you consider me a troll

  15. L Ron Hubbard alias John B()

    Speaking of Sacraments, I remember as a kid a picture of my parents on their wedding day, Mom in her gown and Dad in his suit. It was many years later that I found out the picture was taken in the Priest’s House and not a celebrated wedding Mass. Was it a Sacrament? I can’t tell you. Just like I can’t really say whether a Sacrament occurred at his deathbed.

    Mom and Dad made their union as Sacred as two broken people are able. Death parted them.

  16. C-Marie

    A marriage is sacramental when both parties are baptized. Your parents did have a sacramental marriage, as long the priest officiated at their exchange of vows …. plus two witnesses would have had to have been witnesses throughout.
    ?From The Celebration of Marriage in the Catholic Catechism:

    “1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church … ”

    (as long as there is no impediment to the marriage taking place.)

    The man and the woman are the ministers of the Sacrament, and the priest officiates at the wedding, and the two witnesses.

    God bless, C-Marie

  17. C-Marie

    Oops! Question do not belong!!!

    God bless, C-Marie

  18. l ron hubbard alias john b()

    Damn. I’ve been feeding a troll. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *