Passages on Holy Orders Confession Extreme Unction
(pg. 314) As the Son of God became incarnate, suffered, and died for us, there is no salvation for us except in the sacraments which He instituted and through the Church which he founded. [A heartfelt affirmation of the Gospel with faith “in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints.” His statement holds true “for us” who have learned the truth of God in and through the Catholic Church]
It was on Holy Thursday that Our Lord instituted the priesthood, when, after consecrating the bread and wine, He said to His apostles: “Do this in commemoration of Me.” It is probably that they did not fully comprehend the admirable power and commandment which their Master had given them. After receiving the Holy Ghost on Pentecost, they were taught all truth by the Holy Spirit, and we know that they offered the Holy Sacrifice and gave Communion, as Our Lord had done.
Besides the power of saying Mass, the apostles received all the other powers needed to prepare the faithful, for worthily participating in the Holy Sacrifice. If we go back to the days of those holy apostles and represent to ourselves the assemblies over which they presided, we will find that those who received Communion at their hands were persons whom they had instructed and baptized, and whose sins they had forgiven. So also it is in our days. The priest of the Church is one who had been chosen by his Bishop, as the apostles were chosen by Our Lord. By the imposition of hands of the Bishop the deacon has received a sacred character or indelible consecration, which makes him forever a priest, separated from lay people, elevated above them. That ordination makes him the property of God, the man of God, the vicar of Jesus Christ. But, as Our Lord Jesus Christ came for the sanctification of men, so the priest was consecrated for the welfare of his fellow-men. Or Lord Jesus Christ lived and died in order to lead them to a happy eternity, and the priest must spend all his life in preparing men for the same eternal bliss.
The priest must baptize; he must teach; he must hear confessions and absolve penitents; he must give Communion to those who are in health, and to those who will soon die; he must bless the union of those who enter the state of marriage, as Our Lord blessed the marriage at Cana. The priest must anoint the sick, as the apostles did before him; he must attend the dying, as the apostles and Our Savior did. All this is done now by the reverend clergy; and we know that those who die after worthily receiving the sacraments which they administer depart from this world with the assurance of obtaining the possession of God after death, and a happy resurrection on the last day. How can we be sufficiently thankful to Our Lord Jesus Christ for the institution of the priesthood? If, during this blessed Holy Week, we had not amongst us one or more successors of the apostles, all joy, all hope, all glory, and all life would have departed from amongst us.
At every Mass said by a priest, a special commemoration is made of the institution of the priesthood. But at the Mass of Holy Thursday we have the history of that institution read to us in the Epistle (Cor. Xi.); and in the Gospel of the day we have the relation of the washing of the feet of the apostles, as performed by Our Saviour [sic] before the institution of the Holy Eucharist (John xiii.).
(pg. 429) Our Lord instituted the holy Sacrifice of the Mass three days before instituting the Sacrament of Penance; and so also in the ordination of the priests the power of saying Mass is given them first by the Bishop, and then he imposes his hands upon them, and says: “Receive the Holy Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them’ and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Whilst attending the sick we need not be disturbed if we cannot perform our ordinary devotions. The exercise of charity should have precedence in devotional exercises, but we should never forget that it is still more important to help sick persons to prepare for death than it is to alleviate their bodily ailments.
As to the manner of helping the souls of sick persons we would beg that they always have some holy water at hand, for this water possesses much efficacy in consequence of the blessing it has received. Let the sick persons use it themselves, if they can; but if they cannot, let their friends sprinkle it, and make the sign of the cross on them with it. Let them have a crucifix, which they may sometimes kiss with devotion; and let there be an image of the Blessed Virgin so placed that they can see it conveniently. They alone who have been a long time and dangerously sick can tell how much comfort is to be found in hearing devout prayers recited, or in listening to some pious reading. It is in fact the only real comfort that sick persons can enjoy at a time when the world is nothing to them. Let us therefore resolve to visit the sick, to nurse them, to pray with and for them. When Our Lord was sending his apostles to preach the Gospel, He declared: “These signs shall follow those who believe. In My name… they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.” And another passage of the New Testament says; “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of the faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James v. 14, 15). The pastor ought to be informed of it whenever a member of his parish is dangerously ill. A special benediction is attached to the pastor’s visit, but especially to the blessing of him whose hands have been consecrated; and to him belongs the duty of purifying the soul of the patient by absolution and holy Extreme Unction. If it cannot be said of the priest as it was of Our Savior, that “virtue come from him and heals all,” it is true to say of him, nevertheless, that divine graces comes through him when he administers the rites of the Church. When the priest who represents Our Lord Jesus Christ anoints the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, the lips, the hands, and the feet of a dying man, and signs them with the sign of the cross, he does it as it were, to stamp them with a pledge of glory and immortality. Our Lord seems to say: weep not; …your brother shall rise; he will behold Me with his eyes and praise Me with his tongue. When also the priest gives the last Communion he says to the sick man: “Receive, my brother, the viaticum of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s body, which may protect you against the wicked enemy, and lead you unto life everlasting!”
Oh, how glorious it is to visit the sick, to see to their temporal wants, but especially to prepare them for eternity! To those persons Our Lord will say: “I was sick, and you visited Me… Come, you blessed of My Father, … possess the kingdom prepared for you.”
As everything the church converges towards the altar; as it is in the church that we receive our instructions, and receive the sacraments during life, –it is in the church also that we are helped during our sickness. Let not the friends of the sick man forget to have him recommended to the prayers of the congregation.