Chapter VIII will wrap up Part II of the Pastoral Care Rites, but be warned: it is a long one, running from section 232 through 296. One section serves as an introduction, and here it is:
232. The rites contained in this section are exclusively for use in exceptional circumstances. In all other cases, the more developed forms of pastoral care ought to be employed for the greater benefit of those members of the community who are dying and for the greater consolation of those who are close to them.
The exceptional circumstances for which these rites are provided arise when there is a genuine necessity, for example, when sudden illness or an accident or some other cause has placed one of the faithful in proximate or immediate danger of death.
I’m reminded of a story a parent told me recently. My new parish does not have holy water dishes at the doors of the building. Instead, holy water is available in the font. My friend mentioned that her child immediately knew a baptism was in the offing the other week when the font water was warm.
Sacraments often celebrate a reality of faith and grace that has already taken place in the recipient/celebrant. The public rituals may serve to deepen and reinforce this faith, and remind us of Christ’s grace. But the Church’s sacramental rituals are also for the community, to reinforce their faith, to invite an openness to Christ’s presence. An excess of privacy in penance, anointing, and viaticum impoverishes the faith community. Wise pastoral ministers know that loved ones and parishes have their own process of mourning that needs to be respected and that needs the sacramental outlet and expression.
That said, we will delve in to the pastoral necessities laid out in times of exceptional circumstances.