Monday, March 22, 2010


Down the street from where my parents lived is a park with a pavilion in it. Apparently someone ended their life there a number of years ago. That seems to mark a place. People do not buy homes because a particular crime had taken place there. People believe that such things leave a bad aura. But what about the good things that happen? This came to mind because we are in the thick of confession season and priests are called to kinds of places to hear confessions. Although the rubrics say that confessions should take place in a confessional there are times when this is not possible.

This past weekend was the men’s conference in Akron. Over a thousand men showed up for this day of retreat at a local Catholic high school. A small army of priests were brought in to help hear confessions. Obviously there were not 40 confessionals available for use and so we were assigned classrooms. My classroom was a computer lab. Once inside one had to wind through a maze of desks to get to the chairs set up for confession. Computer screens faced me from every direction, the large windows looked out onto the front of the building, and smart board, which are now as common as overhead projectors used to be, sat at my left.

There was a break in the line of men coming for confession and I thought about Monday (today) when the students would return for classes. Did they have any idea of what went on in this classroom that they drag through every day? While they practice their typing do they have any notion that it was quite possible that the chair in which they were sitting was occupied recently by a dad who needed to bare his soul to God? While the student watches the clock tick the seconds away to the end of class do they have any idea of the healing and the joy that took place there?

I think of this with home Masses. Occasionally I go on vacation with other priests and we know that we are not going to be able to get to Mass and so bring a Mass kit with us and have Mass in the hotel room. I get a chuckle out of thinking that if there was a question on Family Feud about the top 8 things that take place in a hotel room, Mass would not be one of them.

Hotels and nursing homes are often thought of as sad places. We were called out on a number of occasions this past week to anoint people and offer the apostolic pardon for those standing on the threshold of life in the world to come. Family and friends might be sad but there is joy in a person being prepared to greet God. The definition of a saint is one who goes to heaven. I wonder how many hospital and nursing home beds are blessed to have had saints die in them? How many sacraments, Eucharist, confession, anointing, how many rosaries, how many pleas to God have taken place on these beds? It is not all tragic and sad. These can be very holy places.

On another note: I continue my crusade against the notion that anointing of the sick is for those who are on the point of death. Not only is not called for it is dangerous. Anointing of the sick is for those who are sick. Part of the hope is that with the blessing a person might get better.

I was called out late at night to anoint someone at a place that I had never been to before several parishes away. Apparently we were the only ones they could get a hold of. That was fine. I got out of bed, got dressed and headed to the address. But when I pulled into the place I realized that I had no idea where to go. It was not just a building but 40 acres of buildings. It was dark, the buildings were not well marked, and I had forgotten my cell phone. So I got out of my car and started wandering. A man with a flashlight called out, “Are you a priest?”

He was sent to keep an eye out for clergyman to help direct me to where I needed to go. We walked back to my car and he guided me to the correct building. As we drove we talked a bit. I asked if the person had a sudden turn for the worst.

“Oh no. She’s been like this for a while.”

“Then why did you wait until late at night to call for a priest?”

“Well, we think that she will die soon.”

“Just so you know you could have called earlier. Imminent death is not a prerequisite for an anointing. She would have been equally as covered if we anointed her in the evening.”

“When did that change?”

“The Council of Trent.”

“Well, these people are pretty old. When was that?”

“5 hundred years ago.”



Anonymous said...

I guess the person wasn't 500 years old........

ck said...

Very powerful post.

Can you explain the apostolic pardon? If it is what I think it is, people would be more jazzed about getting anointed if they knew about it.

Matt W said...

"Council of Trent" ROFL!

Austringer said...

Hah! Father, you have a great sense of humor...that's the sort of comment (the Council of Trent comment) that I would have (maybe!) come up with hours or perhaps days later, thus necessitating some kicking of myself for not having thought of it on the spot.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the annointing -- having recently asked and received the sacrament, though seriously ill, certainly not gravely so. Grace, strength, and healing have come from it...