Last Rites – Pet Peeve #4
I just got off the phone with a class mate that is now part time chaplain in a secular hospital, being paid by the Archdiocese to be there. (In my last blog he is the person to my left) Worlds apart, he is nearer the Great Lakes than any other body of water and is now belongs to a religious order. I’m here. We share a frustration with the misnomer of last rites. Since we know not the hour, any sacrament we receive, could be our last rite. People ask for last rites when they really want Anointing of the Sick.
There are Last Rites in the Church and they are called Viaticum, or food for the Journey. (or something very close to that) Any Eucharistic Minister whether extraordinary or ordinary can administer Viaticum.
Why does this bother us? A few reasons. The Church has never taught to wait till the person was a close as possible to death. The official teaching has always been to not wait, as you don’t want to miss judge the time of death. In the old days, however, it wasn’t that bad because there was always a priest that could get to the hospital. A week doesn’t pass that one of the priests here is running out to anoint because people thought it was the last rites. In today’s world, when you wait till the last minute, the priest usually has to cancel and appointment or be late to another sacrament to make this work. Even worse you may not find a priest.
There is no reason to wait!
I anointed a 98 year old a few weeks ago. He was worried that it wasn’t time. I promised him that I would be back and happy to anoint him at any time as he faced his final challenge. His wife of 70 plus years revived the sacrament too. A truly graced moment. A rushed anointing in an ICU or ER is just that, rushed. Anointing of the Sick usually brings much comfort, especially when the one to be anointed can still participate fully in the sacrament. Please don’t wait, the grace of this sacrament is important, especially at the end stages of life.
Please share this far and wide. Especially with your family and friends that are not actively practicing their faith. We want this to be a graced moment! Let’s avoid this becoming something we get done to fill in a check box. The worst is when people try and leave because they are meeting request of loved one that is dying.
For surgery stop after Mass and ask your priest. I think most of us love celebrating this sacrament in the church with others to help pray. Or make an appointment to make sure you receive the sacrament before your surgery.
Let’s use this sacrament to help others back to the faith!