Times have changed. First, because of the hippo laws (if that is how the word is spelled, I hear about it all the time but don’t remember seeing it spelled) I cannot go into someone’s room unless I have been invited. In fact, the hospital cannot even tell me that you are in their facility without your expressed consent.
Secondly the situation from the seminary was a bit of a false taste of the ministry. One of the great things about being a priest in a parish is that you get to know people. I am not dropping in on a stranger but someone I see on a regular basis and with whom I have some kind of relationship. And more than likely they want to see me. Many times they are waiting to see me (or at least “a priest.”)
To that last point here is a common scenario from an event this past week. A call came in that somebody needs to be anointed. The information is taken down and jump in the priestmobile head out to Akron City. Parking at Akron City is now so complicated that I park a block away and just walk there.
I go up to the room and there is a lady in bed surrounded by her family. I chat with her husband and it turns out that he is not Catholic. I invite them all to pray with me and we anoint her and give her the apostolic pardon. She is, compared to how she had been, unusually responsive, opening her eyes and feebly trying to make the responses and gestures. Almost by the time I make it home she has passed. “She must have been waiting for that,” I was informed. And that is not unusual. Some people wait for certain relatives, some to be alone, some for a date, and some to be anointed. And it is a blessing to be able to be the one who brings Christ to someone at this important moment.