24 November 2007

A blessed day

My original Thanksgiving plans called for me to return home to Quincy to spend Thanksgiving Day with my family and to baptize the child of some dear friends earlier this evening.

Several days ago when I learned of the cold front that moved in yesterday I sent word home that I might not be able to make the drive to Quincy because of the weather’s affect on my arthritis. My suspicion proved correct yesterday; my knees would not have been able to make the three and a half hour drive home in a car without stops on the roadside every fifteen minutes to stretch. Consequently, I spent a quiet Thanksgiving at the rectory resting. Last night, I went to the home of some parishioners for a very nice Thanksgiving dinner.

Before going to bed last night, I had decided to return to Quincy this morning for the baptism of my friend’s son, but the Lord had other plans.

I was called this morning to the hospital to attend a dying parishioner who has been in the hospital for several days.

A little more than a year ago she was diagnosed with cancer. Through the care of a good medical team and the fervent prayers of a great many people the cancer was removed, only to appear again a short time ago.

Her husband remained faithfully by her side, ever confident that she would recover. She never complained about her cancer, but accepted it with a grace both human and divine. The couple questioned the purpose of the cancer but never doubted God’s goodness or his presence in their married life together.

They are, to be sure, a special and blessed couple, a true witness to the world of the love of Christ Jesus for his Bride, the Church. I count it a special blessing of the Lord to have shared in their life.

Shortly after the cancer was first discovered I visited with them in their home and prayed with them, administering the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to her. Within the past six months, it seems she received the Sacrament another six times, from the hands of a number of priests, lastly by mine.

When I arrived at the hospital this morning shortly after eight o’clock I expected to pray the Commendation of the Dying with the family. After a few moments her husband asked if I would anoint her. I did so and visited for a short while after the family. Given the great number of them present I thought it best to excuse myself and to await another phone call later in the day.

That call came around ten o’clock this morning. I hurried to the hospital to pray the Commendation of the Dying; this time the family was ready.

To pray the Commendation of the Dying with someone who is one of the unique privileges of the priesthood. Sadly, it seems to be becoming a rare privilege as people do not often call the priest before a person dies. I do not know why families wait so long to call a priest but I suspect it is partly because they do not want to “bother” the priest because “Father is so busy already”. Frankly, call the priest; Father is supposed to be busy with these prayers, not with meetings and other things. I am grateful that the family called for me this morning.

The Commendation of the Dying begins with a litany of various scriptural verses, followed by the Litany of Saints when the Church calls upon the Saints of God to assist the dying person by their prayers.

Though I was unaware at the time, the family tells me that at time I prayed, “Saint Joseph,” and they responded, “Pray for her,” by parishioner began to die very peacefully. As I prayed a few moments later, “I comment you, my dear sister, to almighty God and entrust you to your Creator,” she died. I said to her, “Go forth, Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the almighty Father,” and she did.

It was a moment I shall not forget and for which I shall be ever grateful. The life of a priest is blessed, indeed.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

May she rest in peace.

May her soul, and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
If you’re wondering about the baptism, there were to be several priests present who are all friends of this particular family. I called one of them, the parochial vicar of the parish where the baptism took place, and he baptized little Isaac.

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