Ready for Your Call
Dear POP folks,
November marks the end of hurricane season, the serious beginning of winter respiratory disease and the lead-in to December - January, in which the greatest number of people die. November has also traditionally been the month of the dead in the Church, starting out as it does with All Saints' Day and All Souls' (Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed; the Day of the Dead).
In our Catholic faith, the quickest road to sainthood and our greatest preparation for eternal life is the Holy Eucharist. When we receive communion, we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet. When one of us becomes ill, has surgery or is homebound for a prolonged recuperation or terminal illness, the need for receiving Holy Communion is especially powerful. In these situations, it is vital that the suffering one (and often her caretakers) be allowed to receive the Body of Christ at home or in the care facility where she is receiving treatment.
It is the responsibility of every one of us to phone or e-mail the parish to notify the Pastoral Care Ministry so that outreach to the sick person can begin immediately. It is a bad idea to presume that someone else has already called. It is a worse idea to stop the priest or deacon before or after Mass and notify him that someone needs communion or is in the hospital. This is too important to trust to someone's memory: Call!
If the suffering individual has not received the healing Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, Pastoral Care will see to that as well. If you know you will be going into the hospital or have a serious affliction, ask one of the liturgical ministers to summon the priest and deacon when you are at Mass. It is always best to be anointed here, where the community worships, than alone in a hospital room before surgery. The latter should happen only in a sudden emergency. And, since Anointing of the Sick can only be administered by a priest, planning ahead ensures you or your loved one are able to receive the Sacrament.
If the sick person is having difficulty swallowing, the Minister of Communion can assist by placing a small Communion particle in water in a spoon or by some similar method. Anointing of the Sick is a prayer for healing and is best and most fruitfully administered before the surgery or at the beginning of the illness. It is not "the last rites". The Church has created beautiful prayers of commendation and of forgiveness for those who are dying. The Last Sacrament is the Holy Eucharist (Viaticum): the food for the journey.
The Church tells us that a baptized person in danger of death is also eligible to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation to complete the work of Baptism. We will talk more about that in the next blog in a couple of weeks.