Extreme Unction and Holy Orders

Lesson 34 from the Baltimore Cathechism

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443. What is Extreme Unction?

Extreme Unction is the sacrament which, through the anointing with blessed oil by the priest, and through his prayer, gives health and strength to the soul and sometimes to the body when we are in danger of death from sickness, accident, or old age.

Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

444. Who should receive Extreme Unction?

All Catholics who have reached the use of reason and are in danger of death from sickness, accident, or old age should receive Extreme Unction.

445. What are the effects of the sacrament of Extreme Unction?

The effects of the sacrament of Extreme Unction are:

  1. an increase of sanctifying grace;
  2. comfort in sickness and strength against temptation;
  3. preparation for entrance into heaven by the remission of our venial sins and the cleansing of our souls from the remains of sin;
  4. health of body when it is good for the soul.

And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:15)

446. When does Extreme Unction take away mortal sin?

Extreme Unction takes away mortal sin when the sick person is unconscious or otherwise unaware that he is not properly disposed, but has made an act of imperfect contrition.

447. How should we prepare ourselves to receive Extreme Unction worthily?

We should prepare ourselves to receive Extreme Unction worthily by a good confession, by acts of faith, hope, charity, and, especially, by resignation to the will of God.

My son, in thy sickness, neglect not thyself, but pray to the Lord and he shall heal thee. (Ecclesiasticus 38:9)

448. Who can administer Extreme Unction?

Only a priest can administer Extreme Unction.

449. When is it advisable to call the priest to visit the sick?

It is advisable to call the priest to visit the sick in any serious illness, even though there be no apparent danger of death, as it is the duty of the priest to visit the sick and to administer to them the sacraments they need.

450. In case of sudden or unexpected death, should a priest be called?

In case of sudden or unexpected death a priest should be called always, because absolution and Extreme Unction can be given conditionally for some time after apparent death.

451. What is Holy Orders?

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which men receive the power and grace to perform the sacred duties of bishops, priests, and other ministers of the Church.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in the things pertaining to God, that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)

452. What are some of the requirements that a man may receive Holy Orders worthily?

That a man may receive Holy Orders worthily it is necessary:

  1. that he be in the state of grace and be of excellent character;
  2. that he have the prescribed age and learning;
  3. that he have the intention of devoting his life to the sacred ministry;
  4. that he be called to Holy Orders by his bishop.

If anyone is eager for the office of bishops, he desires a good work. A bishop then, must be blameless, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher, not a drinker or a brawler, but moderate, not quarrelsome, not avaricious. (I Timothy 3:1-3)

452a. What is meant essentially by a vocation to the priesthood?

By a vocation to the priesthood is meant essentially that invitation to receive Holy Orders given by the proper ecclesiastical superior to a man who, after a sufficient period of preparation and trial, gives signs that he has been called by God to the priesthood.

452b. What are the chief signs that a man has been called by God to the priesthood?

The chief signs that a man has been called by God to the priesthood are: a sincere desire to become a priest, a virtuous life, and sufficient bodily health and intellectual ability to enable him to make the required studies and to perform the duties of the priestly life.

452c. Do religious brothers and sisters receive the sacrament of Holy Orders?

No; religious brothers and sisters do not receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, but they have received from God a vocation to dedicate their lives to His service.

453. What are the effects of ordination to the priesthood?

The effects of ordination to the priesthood are: first, an increase of sanctifying grace; second, sacramental grace, through which the priest has God's constant help in his sacred ministry; third, a character, lasting forever, which is a special sharing in the priesthood of Christ and which gives the priest special supernatural powers.

Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 109:4)

454. What are the chief supernatural powers of the priest?

The chief supernatural powers of the priest are: to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to forgive sins in the sacrament of Penance.

Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:22-23)

455. Why should Catholics show reverence and honor to the priest?

Catholics should show reverence and honor to the priest because he is the representative of Christ Himself and the dispenser of His mysteries.

With all thy soul fear the Lord, and reverence his priests. (Ecclesiasticus 7:31)

456. Who is the minister of the sacrament of Holy Orders?

The bishop is the minister of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

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