The Armchair Liturgist: Medical Emergency

This week’s liturgy question on Zenit is good fodder for the armchair liturgists in the reading audience. Have a go, then read Fr McNamara’s response.

During a weekday Mass a parishioner collapsed during the Prayers of the Faithful. Someone with a cell phone called for assistance from a local hospital. The emergency team arrived, brought in a gurney, questioned the stricken man, took his blood pressure, managed to get him onto the gurney, and wheeled him out to the waiting ambulance. Meanwhile, the presider kept on with the Mass, right through the consecration and Communion, while all of this was going on just a few feet away from the altar. While visiting another church some years ago, I witnessed a different reaction to an apparent medical emergency. During Sunday Mass the presider noticed that a woman was visibly becoming faint; he left the altar and caught her before she fell, then took her to the back of the church and left her in the hands of the ushers, who presumably hadn’t been in a position to notice the emergency as it was developing. Then he resumed the Mass. This seemed a lot more caring and communal than simply ignoring an obvious medical emergency. Is there some statement somewhere to the effect that nothing but nothing should interrupt the Mass?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Medical Emergency

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    Can’t be allowed. Not covered in the rubrics.

    Next question.

  2. Stepping over the snark…

    As Fr. McNamara said, interrupting is often the right course.

    Several times we’ve had someone collapse, or have a seizure, and I didn’t see it; or I only saw enough to know something was up, but not what it was.

    Recently I didn’t know anything was happening till the stretcher entered the church; it was just after communion, and I hastened back; as I did, I said loud enough for those near me, “please pray” since people were gawking. Well, someone started praying an Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be.

    I remember one of my very first Masses, someone passed out during the Gloria if I recall; the retired priest motored back with the oil, and when the stretcher came in, I paused everything and said, “let’s just pray quietly for our brother.” When the stretcher left, Mass continued.

    If it were the Eucharistic Prayer, I think I’d probably try to “read” the situation and attempt at least to get through the Per Ipsum, and perhaps check on the person before going on, but you make spot judgments.

  3. Liam says:

    About 10 years ago, a parishioner had a seizure during the liturgy of the Word in the Easter Vigil. The presider had the good sense to stop things but had the bad sense to ask the music ministry to play music while we waited for the ambulance; we refused, much to his consternation.

  4. Anne says:

    This past Christmas morning a young man, seated up front, became ill and collapsed. His wife was visibly upset and a doctor in the congregation as well a nurse came to his aid. Someone called 911. Father glanced over but never even paused. The EMT’s arrived during the communion procession and even then Father said nothing as the procession moved to the side for the EMT’s and announced “Please clear the way!”. Praying quietly for our brother as he left us would have been a better choice than the applause (although well intentioned) that occured as they carried out the already embarrassed man.

  5. FrLarry says:

    This happens all the time. A lot of times, I will stop at a conveninent exit in the prayers where I am and anoint the person, and the people spontaneously start praying during until the commotion is past. (Praying during an medical emergency at Mass is bad?) This is nothing new in the history of the church. The Church can’t make legislation to cover every eventually. The rubrics presume some degree of common sense. This is where the pastoral “nose” (to use Gregory the Great’s term)comes in.

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