By Larry Peterson
Recently I wrote about how being a Catholic caregiver gives that person an "edge". I had no idea that only a day later I would be standing next to an unconscious body that was being kept alive through the use of mechanical means and medications. Somewhere inside that body was my wife, Marty. She was on "life-support"and my work as a caregiver was either on hold or would soon be ended.
Since early in 2011 Marty has had serious medical issues such as lymphoma and Alzheiemr's Disease. But entering the year 2017 things began spiraling downward. The Alzheimer's was markedly advanced and was even affecting her walking. Several times, she even forgot who I was. One day a week or so ago, I wanted to give her her afternoon meds. She refused to take them. She said she could not let a stranger give her poison. I was accustomed to her unpredictability but this was a first. I was stunned..
As weird as this may seem, I actually had a close friend, Geri, come over to "identify" me to Marty. My wife was unflappable and refused to give in. After about a half-hour of cajoling by Geri she finally, yet haltingly, relented. She gave in and took her pills.
Last Thursday, Marty spent most of the day sleeping. She ate nothing. I attributed it to new meds she had been prescribed. Friday the sleeping intensified and again she did not eat. Saturday was worse and late in the afternoon, when I checked here vitals, her oxygen level was at 82. I knew that was not good. I called 911.
|Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction) en.wikipedia.com|
To the point of this article. Through my jumbled thoughts one thought was crystal clear. Call the priest. I immediately did. I had instinctively reached out and taken advantage of my Catholic "edge". I am telling you, it felt good to make that phone call. I knew help was on the way---help for the spiritual side of my wife.
Fifteen minutes later I was at the hospital in the ICU unit, standing next to my wife who was in her "life-support" bed. All the machines, tubes and hoses made the scene appear to be part of a science fiction movie. The beeping and ticking was almost like the background for reggae music. All of this was supposed to help her get well. She was sedated and had no clue as to what was going on.
Shortly after, Father Anthony Coppola, my pastor from Sacred Heart Church, came hurrying into the room. I always have had the utmost respect for the priesthood and the men who wear that collar. But I was about to appreciate the Catholic priesthood and the power that is in it in an entirely different way. I was also about to realize that the purpose of God's plan for the three of us to be in in that room, together, at that moment, was about to come together.
What happened next is part of the mystery of Faith. It is that great intangible that cannot be seen or touched. If a person has been gifted with faith and has embraced this gift they understand. If not, they have chosen not to. As St. Thomas Aquinas said so long ago, "“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
Father and I chatted briefly and then he went to work. He was about to administer the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Extreme Unction). A Catholic priest is the only person who can offer the Holy Mass and administer the Sacraments of Penance, Confirmation (usually the bishop does this) and Anointing of the Sick. He has been given this power because he has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
He opened his prayer book and began to read. Then he took holy oil from a little gold receptacle, dipped his thumb in it, and anointed Marty's forehead and hands with it. He prayed some more and then it happened. He said these words, "By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Marty had just been given what is known as the Apostolic Pardon. This was that moment in time where I understood everything that was going on. She was there, still alive, because God wanted her to be fully prepared for her impending journey, a journey that would now be straight and direct to Jesus Himself. I was there because without me, the priest would not have been available to impart his power.
But this moment belonged to Father Anthony, a Catholic priest who had the power and authority to impart this pardon. Make no mistake, these are the moments when the radiance of the Catholic priesthood shines through because these are the moments a priest stands in the shoes of Christ . It was a beautiful and humbling thing to see.
©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017