Catholics who studied their catechism before the Second Vatican Council all knew the names of the seven sacraments and for some of them the name of the last one was a little difficult. It was called “extreme unction,” literally meaning, “the last anointing.” Today, we usually refer to this sacrament as simply “the last rites.”
In addition to this sacrament, the Church also uses oil at baptism, confirmation and ordination. All three ceremonies set a person apart in their relationship to the Church and Jesus Christ. When a person is baptized, he is marked and drawn into the family of faith. Confirmation reflects recognition of a person’s maturity, growth in the faith and a willingness to assume responsibility to spread it. In the priesthood, the man’s hands are anointed to mark the fact that in a very special way those hands are instruments in our Lord’s plan for keeping his presence among us until the end of time; namely, the celebration of the Eucharist. Finally, in the last rites (extreme unction), we lift up the lives of the persons who are ill, present them to God and ask for his mercy and salvation. Overall, these four sacraments together form a marvelous collage of religious life inside the family of the Church.
Don’t forget that YOU have been anointed! You have been marked. You are special because of the saving actions of Jesus Christ.