Friday, 26 February 2021

Talks on the Sacramentals, by Msgr Arthur Tonne - Ceremonies of Extreme Unction

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." St. James, 5:14.

In his young life as a soldier he had many narrow escapes from dangerous accidents. Brushes with death he called them. His plane had been riddled with flak. He had thrown himself into a ditch to escape a rain of machine gun bullets. Another time a bullet had whistled through his helmet But his most terrifying experience happened in an army hospital.

He was lying in a coma after his plane had cracked up. He was paralyzed. He could not move his lips or his eyes or a single muscle. He heard the doctors tell the nurse:

"He's finished. There's nothing more to do."

He heard them pronounce him dead. Yet, he was not dead. Fortunately, someone had summoned the chaplain. The priest took a last chance. He pronounced conditional absolution and quickly administered the sacrament of Extreme Unction. There might be a spark of life in this man.

And there was. Hardly had the priest completed the rite when the apparently dead man twitched a muscle. He revived. He recovered. It was just another of the countless proofs of the life- giving, strength-giving powers of the sacrament of the dying. Too numerous to question are the cases where a patient has been in a coma or unconscious only to revive upon the administration of Extreme Unction.

St. James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has promised this:

"Is any one among you sick? Let him bring in the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him." St. James, 5:14, 15.

The ceremonies connected with such a marvelous sacrament are interesting sacramentals. They help to put the patient and the people present in the proper disposition for the graces which the sacrament offers. These actions console, strengthen and uplift.

1. By the Last Sacraments we mean Confession, Communion and Extreme Unction. Should a Catholic suddenly take seriously ill, the priest is called. If possible, the patient makes a confession, receives Viaticum, and then the sacrament of the dying. On the table covered with a white linen cloth there should be a crucifix. holy water, two lighted candles, a glass of water, a spoon and a dish with a few snatches of bread, and a slice of lemon, and a dish of water and a towel. These are to cleanse the oil from the fingers of the priest. There should also be at least six small pieces of cotton on a dish.

2. As the priest enters the sick room, he prays:

"Peace be to this house....

"And to all who dwell therein."

He places the oil of the sick on the table. After confession and Viaticum he offers the sick person a crucifix to kiss, and sprinkles the patient and those in the room with holy water in the form of a cross.

3. After several beautiful prayers in which our Lord is begged to grant peace and health to the household and to defend everyone from evil, the priest proceeds to anoint the five senses.

4. He dips his thumb in the Oil of the Sick and traces the sign of the cross on the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the closed lips, the open hands, and the feet. As he anoints each sense he says a prayer like this:

"Through this holy unction and of His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins thou hast committed by sight. Amen."

5. Immediately after each anointing the priest wipes off the oil, taking a fresh piece of cotton for each sense. It is proper for someone to hold the clean pieces of cotton on a plate and to receive on a plate the used pieces, so that later the cotton, together with the lemon, bread and water used in washing may be thrown into a fire. The priest will dispose of it, if you wish.

6. There follow several beautiful prayers, each one beseeching God to grant good health to this sick child of His.

7. In cases of emergency the priest may use a much shorter form for anointing. He simply anoints the forehead of the dying person. This is done when the circumstances prohibit the carrying out of the full rite.

8. Following this are a number of touching prayers for a dying person which the priest says when there is time for it.

9. At the hour of death the priest imparts the Apostolic Blessing with a Plenary Indulgence.

Again I urge that you call the priest in plenty of time to administer this consoling and strengthening sacrament while the dying person is still conscious. Don't wait until the patient in unconscious or scarcely able to know what is going on.

Should you be sick, have your relatives and friends, your doctor and nurse instructed to call a priest in ample time. You want to be fully conscious when these beautiful ceremonies and prayers are performed over and for you. You want to share fully in their power to lift your heart to heavenly things, their power to strengthen your soul, their unquestioned power to help you physically when God sees fit.

Think about this sacrament during today's Mass. The time for you to receive it may be a short or a long way off. Try to realize in your days of health the meaning and beauty and helpfulness of the sacrament you will receive before or on the day of your death. Amen.

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