Pastor's Corner

The Rite of Pastoral Care of the Sick

01-23-2022Pastor's CornerRev. Robert J. Deehan, V.F.

Many more people are dying at home rather than the hospital these days thanks to the great work of hospice care. The Catholic Church offers wonderful spiritual and emotional support to those facing their end. However, unless this support is offered soon enough, it will not be all that helpful to the dying person. The Rite of Pastoral Care of the Sick explains, “Priests and other ministers entrusted with the spiritual care of the sick should do everything they can to ensure that those in proximate danger of death receive the body and blood of Christ in viaticum.” #176. But, to do this a priest needs to be notified early in the dying process.

To help us provide these “last rites” and other sacramental ministry, which is due to those who are dying, please do not wait until the last minute to contact the parish. It is unfortunate that in many instances, the dying person ends up being either unconscious or so sedated that it is impossible for the person to receive viaticum / Holy Communion, or derive any comfort from the scriptures and prayers offered. Also, often in this situation, the dying person has not yet received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which is a great source of grace, healing and strength for those dying as well as for those facing a serious illness. Again, it would be much more meaningful to them if they could receive this sacrament earlier in their illness. Another reason why it is so important not to wait until the last minute to contact a priest is so that the dying person can obtain the grace of God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Allowing the dying person the opportunity to make a good Confession will bring inner healing and peace, and enable the person, if necessary, to seek reconciliation with others before they die.

As the next generation may not be aware of the importance of such pastoral care, I encourage you to let your family members know that you want them to call a priest early in the dying process. Consider putting this in writing. Some might remember a card that Catholics would carry in their wallet that read, “I am a Catholic. In case of an emergency, please call a priest.” Spread the word and help the Church provide the sacramental ministry due any Catholic who is dying by contacting the parish early in the process so that priests can offer the appropriate spiritual care that will be more meaningful and helpful to the dying person. It’s one of the best “final” gifts you can give to a dying loved one.