We welcome guest blogger Jim Van Vurst, OFM, who contributes to Friar Jack’s E-spirations.
Recently, I received a call from a nearby nursing home asking me to come to pray with and anoint a patient who was dying. The woman was in her late 70s and had just lost her husband about a month earlier. I learned later that she died on Easter Sunday.
For me, such a visit is always a graced-filled moment, because I am so much aware of the loving care the Church gives to one about to enter eternity. For eleven years, I was Pastoral Care Director for a large Midwestern retirement and nursing center. There were between 80 and 90 deaths each year and I had the opportunity to be with many dying residents.
Sometimes the family was present and at other times it was just myself and the dying person. When I use the word dying keep in mind that I’m with a person who in a matter of minutes or short hours will enter eternity and see God face to face. In a way, you might say it is the closest we get to the feel for eternity except when we ourselves experience it.
The Church is especially caring for the dying. We have special patrons for the dying, particularly St. Joseph. Imagine having Jesus and Mary at your bedside at that moment. As another example, the prayers of the Mass remember each and every person, whatever the state of life or circumstance is. This includes those facing death at that very moment, whether by natural causes, accident or persecution. In a word, the Church prays for all without exception.
As part of the Christian community, the body of Christ, you and I are together with all our brothers and sisters praying for one another. The Eucharist is celebrated around the world from the rising of the sun through its setting. There is never a moment when the Mass is not being offered somewhere on earth, never a moment when we are not praying for one another.
When it comes to assisting the dying into eternity, the prayers of the Church are filled with hope and anticipation of the person’s union with God and reunion with his or her loved ones. I have often felt the presence of the dying person’s deceased loved ones in the room with me, preparing for that magnificent reunion.
Photo: Stuart Miles