Friday, August 26, 2011


Recently somebody donated a box of religious items to the parish. Most of it was things used at Mass. One thing in the box, however, was a sick call crucifix that I hung in one of the guest bedrooms.

Sick call crucifixes used to fascinate me as a child with its sliding secret compartment, candles, holy water, and other things. It seems a majority of Catholic homes had one usually near the bedrooms or in the living room just in case it might be needed. This does not seem to be the case anymore. Whereas Catholics are still highly encouraged to have a crucifix hanging in their houses, the sick call crucifix seems to be becoming a thing of the past. (It it is not in your area, I would be interested in hearing about it.)

In all actuality, I have never seen one used and today they are largely not necessary. I do remember my mother showing how they would be used if it were ever needed however. “Before the priest comes,” she said, “we would prepare for his arrival. He will not be very talkative because he is carrying the Blessed Sacrament and therefore will not be engaging in idle chit chat until after.” She then took the crucifix off of the wall and placed it on a table. The top of the crucifix slid off and could be set up right into the base. A small cloth (which I take to be a corporal) would be placed on the table where Father could place his pyx. Two tiny beeswax candles would also be set into the base and lit because of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. There was also a little vile of holy water.

Today there does not seem to be the need for one of these crucifixes. The priest generally brings with him all the things he needs for a visit and such things as candles are either no longer needed or even forbidden as many people we visit are on oxygen the combination of which would send a person to his maker sooner than anticipated. But neither is there anything that forbid or make inappropriate the use thereof.


Kathy Kalina said...

Father V;

Just the other day I was thinking about the sick call kit. I actually have one on the wall in my entry, a family heirloom.

I've been a hospice nurse for years and have never seen one used. But I've always thought that one day I would break it open, light the candles and lead the priest to the bedside of a dying family member.

The "open flame near oxygen" issue never occurred to me! Ah, wasn't life better (or at least more romantic) before safety?

Pat said...

In addition to the sick-call crucifix (really for use when someone was near death), we had a very large candle (26 in. x 1.5 in.) that was to be lit, placed in a glass milk bottle (as a candle holder) and kept burning at the bedside of the dying person.

I recently found a (regular-sized) candle that my Aunt had, from some sodality in which she was enrolled. The box of the candle promised many indulgences for the sodality member who held that burning candle during the hour of death. Can you imagine a dying person having the strength to hold a lit candle?

Jennifer Fitz said...

My grandparents gave me theirs, and it hangs in my entry way. My co-catechist one year had the exact same one, though hers had gotten more use. We make a point of showing the kids how it all works. Pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

We have 3 sick call crucifixes in our home. I know the Society of St. Pius Tenth when entering a home of a sick/dying person there is a person or (2) to greet the priest at the door, each holding a lighted candle as the priest is carrying Our Lord with him. All is done in silence.