start seeing sacraments: anointing of the sick

Every week I’ll share a few favorite images around one of the seven Catholic sacraments, to celebrate my new book: Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.
Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments

. . .

Maybe more so than reconciliation, anointing of the sick is the hardest sacrament to capture in image.

Because it is blessedly removed from my life right now.

Every day I think about the gift of three healthy children. They get runny noses, spike teething fevers, toss and turn the rare restless night with a stomach bug. But thus far their well-check visits to the pediatrician have been routine and uneventful.

So many parents I know do not take this for granted. Babies tangled in IVs in the NICU, toddlers stretched out on the surgeon’s table, kids struggling through school hallways in wheelchairs, teenagers wrapped in heaps of quilts on their deathbed. There is no promise that childhood is free from suffering.

But for me today, the everydayness of this sacrament lies in its absence. At this stage in my life – and this will not last for always, I know – I honor its sacredness only by the smallest reminders.

A stash of Tylenol and bandaids bought to share with our sister parish in Haiti, where parents are pleading for the most basic medications to help their children sick with fever. (Or worse.)

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A coffee-stained Starbucks table that welcomes those with physical handicaps and nudges me to question if my life today does the same.

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A kiss on the oven-burned finger from two big boys who came running when they heard me yelp. Mama, let me make it better. Teaching me how the power of physical touch is a blessing we grasp from our earliest days.

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. . .

Anointing of the sick is not last rites. It’s a common misunderstanding in popular culture, lingering in Catholic circles, too. But this blessing with sacred chrism oil and prayer is not reserved for our last gasps of breath.

It’s a gift of God’s healing grace to be shared whenever we are suffering deeply – in body, mind, or spirit.

When I first started writing the chapter on anointing of the sick in Everyday Sacrament, I stalled over the fact that I’d never received this sacrament myself. If I’d only seen it celebrated from a safe and healthy distance, what could I possibly have to say about its power?

But then I realized that there are echoes of anointing’s graces in the everyday ways we help each other to heal. Every parent who has comforted a screaming child, bandaged a bleeding wound, or rushed a sick baby to the emergency room understands some traces of this sacrament.

Perhaps we practice these “first rites” at home because deep down we know that some day our children will be wounded beyond our power to heal. And we want them to remember what it first meant to be held and comforted in love. 

Today I celebrate my children’s health. And I pray that they will always know how God’s grace waits to anoint their aches and soothe their scars, even when health is no longer the safe measure of their days.

When have you seen the anointing of the sick celebrated?
What have you learned about healing at home?

3 thoughts on “start seeing sacraments: anointing of the sick

  1. This really resonated with me. Other than a scary bout of croup that landed my oldest in the hospital when he was 1, my kids have all been really healthy. A couple ear infections, the occasional stomach bug, runny noses every couple of months. And yet I feel so anxious about even the possibility of them getting sick. This post inspires me to seek out and recognize the grace in the moment, whether it be cleaning up after a sick child in the middle or the night or just rubbing some lotion on after a bath. Something to shift my focus away from fear. Thank you 🙂

    1. Ashley, I completely agree with you! I get sick with fear like that, too, when I think about my kids becoming seriously sick. I try to keep in mind that this is reality, and not just a maybe-nightmare, for so many parents. So I try to pray for them instead. And do those small acts of love that shift the focus away, like you said. Beautiful.

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