Christian Funerals

Why does the Church not sacramentally anoint bodies after death?

One purpose of the Sacrament of the Sick and its anointing of the living person is to instill hope and healing before death.  After death, when healing can no longer take place, the Church has other prayers but does no anoint the dead body. 

The Church provides a number of rites or liturgies as parishes offer the ministry of consolation to families experiencing sickness and death.  First, for the sick, the Church has the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  As soon as a person is seriously sick or injured, the parish should be called to request the anointing. This anointing can be received many times in one’s life and should not be limited to the last hour of life.  After death, the Church does not anoint the body but offers other special prayers commending the soul to the Merciful Lord.

The Anointing of the Sick can be received many times by a Catholic. Pastors often remind their parishioners that the sick are to be anointed at the beginning of a serious illness as well as through the various stages of the illness as it progresses. The sacrament is not reserved to be celebrated only within the last hours of one’s life.  The Sacrament of the Sick is for the living and the hope of being reunited at the Altar of the Lord. Once a person dies, the priest may offer different prayers for the dead but does not anoint the body.