The sick, the housebound and the dying.

Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. (Mt. 4.23)

Go and preach, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life,healed those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. (Mt. 10.7)

Jesus didn’t just preach about the kingdom. He brought the kingdom into people’s lives by showing compassion and healing those in need of healing. We are called to do the same.

Jesus himself knew what it is to suffer and to face death. He accepted it all as part of God the Father’s plan for him. So, the healing that Jesus wants for us all is not just a healing of the body, (after all we must all die sometime). What he wants is a healing of the soul, the grace to be reconciled with God and to be continually renewed in spirit. He touches people’s lives letting them know God’s love for them, thus enabling them to be open to the grace of God’s Spirit, and to be healed.

Care for the sick and housebound

If there is anyone sick among you, let them call for the elders of the church and let them pray over them. The prayer made in faith will save the sick man, and if he has committed any sins they will be forgiven him. (James 5.14-15)

People who are sick are very close to Jesus ‘ heart and share in a special way with him in his mission by carrying their cross. Therefore, we would be glad to hear of anyone who is sick or housebound in the parish so that we might include them in our prayer. If desired, we could also arrange for them to be visited in their home or in hospital. It is the custom for a priest or minister of the Eucharist to bring Holy Communion to the housebound on the First Friday of each month or another suitable time. Arrangements can also be made for Confessions or the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

The Sacrament of Anointing

This sacrament is meant especially for those who may be anxious about dying because because of old age or serious illness. It is there to bring Christ’s healing to these people and to them help them. Therefore, it should not be postponed till the person is so sick that they are no longer alert to what is taking place. If the person who is anointed is too sick to make a confession of his sins, he is nevertheless absolved by this sacrament. Not everyone who is sick recovers from their illness, but many visibly recover. God hears our prayer, so there is no need to administer this sacrament more than once a month, unless the patient takes a bad turn.

The sacrament begins with a rite of penance as in Mass and then we have readings from the Bible. This is followed by a short litany. The priest then lays hands over the sick person as it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the sacrament takes place. All pray quietly at this point. A prayer of thanksgiving over the oil reminds us of God’s concern for the sick person and what he will do for him. Then he is anointed with the olive oil which was blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday. (Oil has a soothing effect and that is why it is used as a symbol in this sacrament.)The anointing is made on the head and the palm of the person’s hands, while the priest prays: ‘Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees your from sin save you and raise you up.’ The sick person answers: ‘Amen.’ A short prayer concludes the ceremony, unless it proceeds with the Our Father as the person is to receive Holy Communion.

Praying with the sick or the dying.

It is important for those who are sick to be surrounded by love. Prayer should be part of this. When you pray, pray with the confidence that Jesus will help; he always does. Pray the prayers that you have always said. If you don’t know what prayer to say, you could take a short reading from the Bible and use it’s words to help you make up your own prayer.

For example, take Luke , chapter 7, verse 6 and the following (Lk 7.6ff): “The centurion sent friends to say to Jesus, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word and my servant will be healed. For I am a man also under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one man ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.”

Now from this take the words ‘Speak the words and my servant shall be healed.’ Instead of servant put the name of your friend, John thus: ‘Speak the word and John will be healed. Lord, please speak the word, heal my friend. Lord Jesus, I trust in you.’ It is no harm at all to keep repeating the same words while at the same time allowing Jesus to be with you and speak to you of his love for you and your friend or relative. If the person is dying a good quotation from Jesus words at the Last Supper might be appropriate: Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid’. Trust in God and trust in me.” (Jn 14.1) The Rosary is also a good simple prayer that many people know and that they can say together.

People should not be afraid to send for a priest to anoint someone who is seriously ill. Some think that this will frighten the sick person making him think that he is about to die, but actually if he is seriously ill, this is what he is already worried about and will only be glad to be anointed and then if he is well enough he can receive Holy Communion. The last time someone receives Holy Communion is called Viaticum, meaning bread for the journey into everlasting life, according to the words of Jesus, “He who eats this bread will live forever.” After this the prayers of commendation which concludes the last rites may be said. It is a special privilege to be able to support a person by prayer at this time.