How may the minister adapt? The conclusion of this introductory section of PCS suggests a practical approach: consider the needs of the ill person, and utilize options to make the liturgy work better for the sick, the loved ones, and the minister:
40 The minister should take into account the particular circumstances, needs, and desires of the sick and of other members of the faithful and should willingly use the various opportunities that the rites provide.
a) The minister should be especially aware that the sick tire easily and that their physical condition may change from day to day and even from hour to hour. For this reason the celebration may be shortened if necessary.
b) When there is no group of the faithful present, the priest should remember that the Church is already present in his own person and in the one who is ill. For this reason he should try to offer the sick person the love and help of the Christian community both before and after the celebration of the sacrament. He may ask another Christian from the local community to do this if the sick person will accept this help.
c) Sick persons who regain their health after being anointed should be encouraged to give thanks for the favor received by participating in a Mass of thanksgiving or by some other suitable means.
- On 40b, consider creative ways to bring the community to the sick. Most parish schools and RE’s I know make it a task of writing to the sick and elderly. It would be a valuable experience of both catechesis and charity for young people to send written regards and encouragement to those being anointed. Visits would seem to be an option for families and groups of youth. Adults and teens could provide appropriate gestures: baked meals or snacks, recordings or books, cards and letters. While some parishes have a wealth (some would say surplus) of committees, it would seem that the pastoral care of the sick might include an organized community effort to keep in touch and keep people in touch. The sick, in turn, should be invited to do what they can for the community: write letters of encouragement, pray for the parish, tackle easy tasks in their home to assist the parish apostolates.
- On 40c, we see the seed of mystagogy, the post-sacramental “debriefing,” if you will. A return to the community would seem to be a cause for appropriate celebration. Why don’t we consider it more often?
More options for the priest:
41 The priest should follow the structure of the rite in the celebration, while accommodating it to the place and the people involved. The penitential rite may be part of the introductory rite or take place after the reading from Scripture. In place of the thanksgiving over the oil, the priest may give an instruction. This alternative should be considered when the sick person is in a hospital and other sick people present do not take part in the celebration of the sacrament.
This concludes the general introduction on the Pastoral Care of the Sick. In the next several posts we’ll look at the specific introduction for anointing of the sick. Before we get there, any comments to add?