.- Donât wait until the anesthesiologist is ready to put the mask on you before you think about the Sacrament of the Sick, says Fr. John Hay from the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. He urges everyone to seek an anointing before they are admitted to a hospital.
âIt is a sacrament given to help us bear the suffering â the sickness that we have â to be able to unite that suffering to the suffering of Jesus Christ,â Fr. Hay said.
âAnd then itâs not suffering for sufferingâs sake, it can actually become redemptive. We enter into the suffering of Jesus Christ â and that gives us a new power, a new strength, from the power of his grace, to help us carry our load, our cross, whatever sickness that might be.â
In addition, he said, it can be a comfort for the faithful going into surgery to have already received the sacrament.
Father Hay is the chaplain of the St. Paul Parish Newman Center at Wichita State University but his duties include a part-time chaplaincy of the Wesley Medical Center. Two of the three Catholic hospitals, Via Christi Hospital on North St. Francis and Via Christi Hospital on Harry, have full-time chaplains.
Fr. Hay makes rounds at Wesley twice a week and is on call for emergencies. Because heâs part-time there he asks that Catholics who are going to Wesley to request an anointing from their pastor before they go into surgery. âI can catch them beforehand, but itâs not always the case,â he said. âOftentimes Iâm seeing them after their surgery.â
When people see a priest walking into a room wearing a purple stole and carrying a black case, Fr. Hay said, youâll often hear them say, âOh, it must be bad, we had to call the priest.â
Thatâs not necessarily true, he said. âIt doesnât mean theyâre taking their last breath, but that their sickness merits their receiving the sacrament that Jesus has given to his church.â
Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Sick â just as he instituted the Eucharist, Fr. Hay said.
In Matthew 6:13, he added, âJesus sent the disciples out. The disciples came backâ¦they had laid their hands on many, they had cured the sick and anointed them with oil.â
Father Hay said the faithful need to understand that receiving the sacrament doesnât necessarily mean they are going to be cured of their physical ailment, âbut it does give them a grace and a strength â if we cooperate, just as we always have to cooperate with Godâs grace â if we cooperate, then itâs a new strength to bear that sickness, that illness, whatever that might be.â
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in chapter 1514 that the sacrament is not only for those who are dying but for those who are in danger of death, he said.
âAnytime we undergo a surgery and anesthesia is administered, thereâs always an outside chance that something could happen,â he said. âBecause there is that danger there, that certainly would warrant receiving the sacrament of the sick.â
Father Hay reminded those who are in need or who might be in need to go to their pastor for the sacrament.
âUnlike Padre Pio, who could be in two places at once,â he said, âI canât!â
Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas.