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Anointing of the Sick during COVID-19

Father Jerabek recently posted the following on social media:

HOW DOES A PRIEST DO THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK DURING A PANDEMIC LIKE COVID-19?

Carefully, to be sure.

Like most priests, I’ve had many opportunities to anoint people who were extremely ill — including even times (such as with burn victims) where it was difficult to find a *convenient place* to anoint. Sometimes I’ve had to wear gloves (which I then burn and bury); several times, I’ve had to “suit up” to one degree or another in protective sanitary gear.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding all those precautions, the actual anointing was always done with my own thumb — until recently.

During this present crisis, where we are dealing with an apparently highly-contagious virus that can also be deadly, there is another level of precaution a priest can take: Canon Law (canon 1000 § 2) permits a priest to anoint by means of an “instrument”, for a grave cause.

Therefore, we can say the prefatory and concluding prayers from a safe distance, and instead of placing the hands on the person’s head to pray silently before anointing, extend the hand in the air; then, for the anointing itself, move in briefly, having dipped the cotton swab only once in the oil, and anoint the forehead and hands with it while saying the sacramental formula. Then into a resealable bag it goes — the whole thing to be burned and buried.

The Anointing of the Sick is a great consolation for those who have begun to be in danger of death due to sickness or old age, and it can even bring the forgiveness of mortal sins, when confession is not possible. We should always call a priest (and instruct our families and friends in that protocol) whenever and as soon as this sacrament is needed — don’t wait until the person is at death’s door!

If you would like to request the Anointing of the Sick at this time for yourself or for another Catholic, please contact Father Jerabek at one of the following numbers: non-emergencies, (205) 774-0558 and leave a message; emergencies, (205) 251-1279 and follow the prompts for a sacramental emergency. You may also email your request: fatherjerabek@stpaulsbhm.org. Please note, local hospitals are limiting who may enter at this time. Father Jerabek will do what is possible in those circumstances.