On the 6th of July 1909 he was suddenly taken ill, on the 10th he received conditional absolution from a priest of the diocese of Southwark, and on the 12th extreme unction from the prior of Storrington.
It was a popular opinion in the middle ages that extreme unction extinguishes all ties and links with this world, so that he who has received it must, if he recovers, renounce the eating of flesh and matrimonial relations.
A few peasants of Lombardy still believe that one who has received extreme unction ought to be left to die, and that sick people may be starved to death through the withholding of food on superstitious grounds.
They contend even that extreme unction was so instituted, and that St James in his Epistle did but promulgate it.
Some Gnostics sprinkled the heads of the dying with oil and water to render them invisible to the powers of darkness; but in the East generally, where the need to compete with the Cathar sacrament of Consolatio was less acutely felt, extreme unction is unknown.
The main duties of the parish priest are to offer the sacrifice of the mass (q.v.), to hear confessions, to preach, to baptize and to administer extreme unction to the dying.
The rite of extreme unction was introduced in the crusading epoch, although it was already usual to anoint the bodies of dead priests.