Thanks for your patience on the interruption of the series on the Pastoral Care of the Sick. Our earlier posts covered the “General Introduction,” the catch-all portion of the rite that gives general principles and some of the reasons why the rites are structured the way they are. It serves the same purpose as the GIRM does with the Roman Missal and the celebration of Mass.
Part 1 of the rite treats the pastoral care of the sick. It has its own introduction, covering sections 42 through 53. We’ll look at these texts this week.
42.The rites in Part I of Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum are used by the Church to comfort the sick in time of anxiety, to encourage them to fight against illness, and perhaps to restore them to health. These rites are distinct from those in the second part of this book, which are provided to comfort and strengthen a Christian in the passage from this life.
Anointing now, viaticum will be covered later.
43.The concern that Christ showed for the bodily and spiritual welfare of those who are ill is continued by the Church in its ministry to the sick. This ministry is the common responsibility of all Christians, who should visit the sick, remember them in prayer, and celebrate the sacraments with them. The family and friends of the sick, doctors and others who care for them, and priests with pastoral responsibilities have a particular share in this ministry of comfort. Through words of encouragement and faith they can help the sick to unite themselves with the sufferings of Christ for the good of God’s people.
Ministry to the sick is to be exercised by all believers. Remember the tradtional work of mercy? Caring for and consoling the sick? Remember also that the Church sees all lay people involved with the sick: loved ones, medical personnel, clergy, and other lay people as sharing a “ministry of comfort.” This seems a reasonable definition of ministry: accomplishing a task as Christ would, whether explicitly in his name or not.
Remembrance of the sick is especially appropriate at common worship on the Lord’s Day, during the general intercessions at Mass and in the intercessions at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Family members and those who are dedicated to the care of the sick should be remembered on these occasions as well.
The sick are not out-of-sight, out-of-mind for the praying, believing community. Those prayers at Mass are often outside the usual fourfold pattern of church, world, needy, and community often utilized for the liturgy. The chief hours of the Divine Office should include prayers for the sick, composed and inserted if not already written.
Loved ones also bear a singular burden in caring for the sick. The rites are wise to remind pastoral ministers and liturgists of the need to hold these people in prayer also.