At one time, this sacrament used to be known as Extreme Unction, or Last Rites, but the name was changed because it was too easy to get the wrong impression about this sacrament. This sacrament, as a sacrament of healing, is a bestowing of grace upon someone who is not only dying, but anyone who is undergoing a severe health problem. Different times in the Bible sickness is presented as a trial, as something that forces us to think of what is essential in life, but nowhere is it simply dismissed. When we lose our health, especially when it is not a result of something we did, it can feel hard to think of God, feel that He is there with us, but that is precisely what happens. We need grace in those moments to recognize that we are not alone in this struggle; that there is someone with sure hands guiding us.
For example (a true story), a nun broke her ankle, the third time she had done so. The doctors told her that she needed surgery and a lengthy recovery, and that she might never have full mobility. She was afraid and full of anxiety: it was hard for her to think that God was there with her. She needed grace, God’s grace, in order to remember that God had already promised never to forsake or abandon her. She received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. It didn’t mean she was never anxious again, but it gave her the grace and peace to remember what was really important.
So, does that mean God wants us to suffer? Why do bad things happen so often?
Wow! Good question, and a hard one. These two videos might help, but certainly don’t provide a total answer. The first one is on the problem of suffering in general, while the second one addresses more personally how we can deal with suffering ourselves.