Care For The Sick & Dying
The scriptures present to us a Jesus who heals. The implication for us is that we as a church continue the work of Jesus – including the work of healing. The Church has three rites of prayer to care for the sick.
In the past we may have let healing be the work of priests, sisters, and chaplains. We may have heard others talking about calling the priest before someone is about to die and ask for the “last rites.” We used to think that the anointing was our “last rites” – “extreme unction” we called it. But we know that you don’t have to be dying to be anointed. The strong grace of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick is available to all who are seriously sick. This sacrament is ideally celebrated before one enters the hospital or at the hospital with family and friends gathered around. When there is the opportunity to plan ahead, we can celebrate anointing at one of our weekday masses or on the weekend or in someone’s home if they are unable to come to the community. It is meant to be prayer that strengthens and comforts those who are ill or who are about to face serious surgery. Please contact the Parish Office and let us know. Remember to place the name or names of those who are ill in our Parish Book of Prayer. We remember them in prayer at all of our parish masses.
The Church’s care of the sick has two other rites that are not often understood by many. One is called viaticum and the other is called commendation of the dying. Viaticum is intended for those who are clearly on the journey to death. It is a Latin word which means “food to go with you on the way.” When communion is shared with those who are dying it is called viaticum. It is food for the journey and keeps one connected to the body of Christ. We have a ministry dedicated to bring communion to the sick and to those who are dying.
Commendation of the dying is a special prayer of the church for those who are very near death. It is best celebrated with family and friends gathered at the hospital or one’s home. It is a prayer of comfort and letting go. Those present pray verses from the Scriptures, a litany of the saints, prayers for the one who is about to die, and share peace with all present. It is one of the most sacred experiences in which I have the privilege of participating.
When I anoint someone or bring viaticum or pray the commendation of the dying, I do so in your name and the entire church community. That is what the ordained do. However anyone can bring viaticum or pray the commendation of the dying.