The Anointing of the Sick
As you are fully aware the world has been turned upside down. It has impacted our parish in many ways most telling surely is our cancelling all public Masses. The corona virus has put us on a Eucharistic fast. It also has impacted how we are available and able to anoint someone who is seriously ill or in danger of death (the only people we can anoint or give communion to during the pandemic). Most hospitals are in security / privacy mode where visitors are not permitted. We are asked to stay home. If someone is in isolation and we were permitted to come to the hospital or hospice house, we would be required to don protective gear which is in short supply for our medical personnel. I am not saying that we could not anoint someone, just that in most instances it is either not possible or quite difficult or fraught with danger to the person wanting the sacrament and to the minister. The world is turned upside down, normal procedures are not possible.
There is a history of experience in our church in which we developed a “last rites” mindset. Extreme Unction we called it, meant to be kept to the very last days of a person’s life. The sacrament of anointing states in its opening prayer that those who receive it have their sins forgiven, an important aspect of the healing it brings. But sadly, this frightens many who think it brings on death, and it gives a causality to the sacrament that is superstitious. It is always good to remember that at all times God’s mercy is fully available to us, we need only ask for it. And while ordinarily confession or anointing are the means of accessing the mercy of God through these sacraments, often enough for many reasons they are not available, but God’s mercy is, we ask God for it. God sees into our hearts and so a sincere and heartfelt request for mercy, usually by making an act of contrition in our own words or in those words we have been taught, is sufficient to receive God’s mercy.
After Vatican II we understand that “last rites” are viaticum, the reception of communion, which is called food for the journey, the journey home to heaven.
If you have a loved one who is nearing death at home, please contact us so that we can determine how we might bring the sacraments to them. If the loved one would be quarantined, we would not be able to come. You can have the sick person talk with us by phone and we can help them ready themselves to meet the Lord, or you could do this for them also. Again, the mercy we all need from God is “ordinarily” accessed in our sacramental system by confession and anointing, but God’s mercy is always available at all times and places if we in prayer request it from God. That is not turned upside down.