Should I have received the anointing of the sick at Mass?

Our parish had a “Mass for the Sick”, and I attended as a member of the choir to sing at it. I’d never been to one before. At first, when the time came for anointing, the priest blessed those at the front and back of church who were obviously ill, and then a line formed for anyone else in the congregation who wanted to receive it. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that everyone was going up (although the congregation looked to be made up mostly of the elderly).

At this point, the other members of the choir were motioning for me (who was sitting on the end of the bench) to go up, and at first I was just going to get up so they could pass by me. But they kept motioning for me to go up and join the line. Everyone in the choir was getting up to join the line (again, the members are mostly - but not all - elderly). Eventually, I just joined the line, and had my forehead and hands anointed. Partly just to not cause trouble, partly because I was encouraged by them that it was okay, but also in part because I DO have issues with anxiety/depression, although it’s not severe at this time and I no longer need to take medication for it, so I wondered if since it’s an ongoing illness it would be okay and constitute me being “sick”. The priest knows me quite well, and didn’t give any indication that there was a problem or that I shouldn’t be receiving.

It was only afterwards that the doubts started to really creep in. Even though the whole church seemed to be receiving, I did start to think, “well hang on, that was THE Anointing of the Sick, wasn’t it, that was a whole other sacrament I’ve never received before”. And I wonder if it was wrong for me to receive it - I’m not in danger of death or going for surgery, and I’m not sure anxiety/depression “counts” as a chronic illness, or anything. I’m now a bit worried that I did something wrong.

Anointing of the Sick is generally reserved for individuals whose illness is serious enough to be a threat to their life. Before surgery is also always permitted due to the serious nature of surgery. When it comes to the elderly the ritual states: “Anointing can be conferred on the aged who are greatly weakened in strength, even though there is no sign of a dangerous illness.”

It is not normally used for chronic conditions that do not gravely endanger someone’s health. In such cases regular reception of the Eucharist is sufficient.

When it comes to mental health issues, the ritual does permit if it is considered serious:

Some types of mental sickness are now classified as serious. Those who are judged to have a serious mental illness and who would be strengthened by the sacrament may be anointed. The anointing may be repeated in accordance with the conditions for other kinds of severe illness.

Pastoral Care of the Sick #52

Obviously I do not know your age or health conditions and therefore cannot give a yes/no answer to whether your reception of the sacrament was appropriate. I can confidently say I don’t think you did anything wrong given the confusing circumstances you found yourself in.

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