Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sacrament of the Sick

Extreme Unction was the term we used for the Sacrament of the Sick previous to the Second Vatican Council. It was the last anointing and always attended with a certain amount of urgency. A pastor writing in the Catholic Digest recalls the Sacraments of the Sick he  administered in the past with surprising results.

In one of his mission stations when he was an assistant, after finishing the morning Mass, and ready to eat breakfast he was approached by one of the Christians asking for the Sacrament of the Sick for one in the community. He wondered if he could finish his breakfast before leaving but decided it was best to go. The trip took 30 minutes to walk to the house, along a narrow  path separating paddy fields.  

When he arrived at the house, the sick person was out in the yard ready to greet him. The priest was a little bit put out for not having finished his breakfast  for there was no great hurry. The sick person also knew that he didn't have his breakfast and expressed regret. He gave the Sacrament. They probably were taking advantage of his visit to the mission station to give the Sacrament to the Sick. He went back to the mission station and took the bus back to the parish.

As soon  as he arrived at the parish he received a telephone call. The person who received the Sacrament had just died. He found it hard to believe. As soon as he received the Sacrament he died and a family member went to the mission station to tell the priest, but he had just left on the bus for the parish. The family member waited for him to return to the parish before telephoning.

Another sick call was to a mother. She was living with her 60 year old daughter,both widows living together. They were respected and loved by the community. Two o'clock in the morning  he received a call from the daughter asking for the Sacrament of the Sick. He had just given the mother on a visit to the home the Eucharist, and was surprised at the call, but he got ready and went to the home.

The grandmother was unconscious and her hands were cold.The daughter speaking loudly in the ear of the mother told her the priest was there to give her the Sacrament of the Sick. She showed signs of understanding, and he gave her the Sacrament of the Sick. It appeared that she was on the point of dying and the grandson was ready to cry when the mother told him that he was not to cry. The daughter told the mother that she had received the Sacrament and should be at peace, and it was alright to go.

The priest also thought that she was near death, and  said the prayers for the dying. After the prayer he returned to the parish; went to bed but couldn't  sleep, and prepared for the morning Mass. After Mass while he was eating breakfast a telephone call came from  the home of the grandmother. The grandson,  was on the phone. He thought it was to notify him of the death and asked: "Did she die peacefully?"

The unexpected answer: "Grandmother regained consciousness and is now eating. He was ready to laugh at the ludicrousness of the situation. He had prayed in all earnestness for her to die peacefully and... Even after he left the parish he heard that she lived many more years. The ways of God are not our ways.