Friday, September 03, 2004

Of course the oil is still wet on my hands, so I am still in the honeymoon of being ordained a priest, but I have really been coming to enjoy the sacraments of healing; Anointing of the Sick, and Reconciliation. The parish I serve at is responsible for covering a local hospital, so we take turns carrying the beeper. While it is not the busiest hospital in the world, I have gotten a fair amount of experience visiting the sick. It can truly be a humbling time, to be with a family in a time of crisis, to help a suffering person unite themselves more fully with Christ Crucified and there find strength & consolation. Of course, Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament which could use a lot of catechesis. The biggest issue is "Oh Father, I don't want Last Rites." Yes, there are times when a person sees me walk into their room and a panic look crosses their face, like "crap, what didn't the doctor tell me?" Of course the Church does offer prayers and sacraments (e.g. Viaticum) for those who are facing death immeniently. I have found that the family can be consoled much by gathering them to pray with the dying person. Be sure to tell someone that you want the Apostolic Blessing, which, if you are properly disposed, not only forgives all your sins but also frees you from all temporal punishment due to sin. In other words, no Purgatory; express to Heaven (of course that "properly disposed"-part is important). One of the heartbreaks surrounding my grandmother's death a few years ago (besides the priest showing up in tennis shorts and a golf shirt; I'm glad I could identify him as a priest b/c not many in my family could), was that he had no idea what the Apostolic Blessing was. Fortunately the permanent deacon who was in charge of the Pastoral Care office had the book, "Pastoral Care of the Sick" so he loaned it to Father.

Another joy of my assignment is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Have I mentioned how blessed I am to be assigned to the parish I am at? My diocese can be rather liberal, and Reconciliation is probably offered at most parishes here for maybe an hour each week. St. James is one of the more traditional parishes and we hear confessions EVERYDAY, except Sunday. In fact we have three scheduled times for Confessions on Saturdays, and for 1.5 hours on Saturdays there are 2 priests hearing confessions. You know what? We are rarely slow. We probably average a half dozen confessions each day, and 4 or 5 times that on Saturdays. While of course we have some people who suffer from scruples, most of the penitents are truly examining their lives, seeing how they have failed to live their Christian lives as they should, and are turning to our merciful Lord for forgiveness and the grace to do better. Obviously I cannot say much about what happens when a person is in the confessional, but I can say I find a true joy to welcome back someone who has been away from the sacraments, the Church, for many years. Most of the people, at least 95%, go "behind the screen" so they do not see how often I am almost moved to tears as they throw themselves before the mercy of God.

God is so good!

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