PCS 44-45: Role of the Clergy

Section 44 goes into a bit of detail on the role and ministry of the priesthood. First and most obviously, sacramental catechesis is their responsibility:

44.Priests have the special task of preparing the sick to celebrate the sacrament of penance (individually or in a communal celebration), to receive the eucharist frequently if their condition permits, and to celebrate the sacrament of anointing at the appropriate time.

Liturgy is a communal expression. The responsibility for acclimating the ill person and loved ones lies with the priest:

During this preparation it will be especially helpful if the sick person, the priest, and the family become accustomed to praying together. The priest should provide leadership to those who assist him in the care of the sick, especially deacons and other ministers of the eucharist.

In practice, I wonder how much of this preparation role is abrogated or assigned to lay people. Like other sacraments, especially the catechumenate, confirmation, and Eucharist, it seems clear a significant preparation period is foreseen for anointing of the sick in at least some circumstances. Do you think lay people in general are better prepared for the possibility of it today?

As we continue through the rite, keep in mind this convention for identifying the minister of pastoral care:


The words “priest,” “deacon,” and “minister” are used advisedly. Only in those rites which must be celebrated by a priest is the word “priest” used in the rubrics (that is, the sacrament of penance, the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, the celebration of viaticum within Mass). Whenever it is clear that, in the absence of a priest, a deacon may preside at a particular rite, the words “priest or deacon” are used in the rubrics. Whenever another minister is permitted to celebrate a rite in the absence of a priest or deacon, the word “minister” is used in the rubrics, even though in many cases the rite will be celebrated by a priest or deacon.

Perhaps it is understood, but ministry to the sick is adapted to the attitudes, emotional state, and nature of the person’s illness:


45.The pastoral care of the sick should be suited to the nature and length of the illness. An illness of short duration in which the full recovery of health is a possibility requires a more intensive ministry, whereas illness of a longer duration which may be a prelude to death requires a more extensive ministry. An awareness of the attitudes and emotional states which these different situations engender in the sick is indispensable to the development of an appropriate ministry.

This last paragraph would seem to contradict the say-the-black/do-the-red approach to the sacraments touted in many circles today. The minister must use judgment. This judgment is predicated not on the personal taste of the minister, but on the need of the sick person. Moreso, the priest is handed the responsibility of assessing the spiritual situation of each person in his care. I could see how a pastoral care staff person or communion minister might aid the pastor in making that determination. But PCS 44 states explicitly the job of leadership of this ministry lies with the priest. Any comments on this? Any experiences with the preparation of the sick or clerical leadership in your parish?



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to PCS 44-45: Role of the Clergy

  1. Chris says:

    Unfortunately, my pastor doesn’t hold any services for a general anointing of the sick and — if rumor is true — sometimes doesn’t even show up to give the last rites at the nursing homes. It’s a sad situation. At least I know that if I’m going to have surgery, I will go to a priest friend of mine and get the sacrament beforehand.

  2. Anne says:

    if rumor is true — sometimes doesn’t even show up to give the last rites at the nursing homes.

    IF true,this is something that should be reported to the bishop.

  3. Jimmy Mac says:

    Maybe he is too busy blogging about returning to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

  4. Mike Emery says:

    Where is charity here? Why not first give the benefit to your pastor, we all know how busy they are. Rumors, are just that, let us speak with compassion and truth, not implications.

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