Our Sick & Housebound
The Sick and Housebound
As a Eucharistic community, a specific promise of Jesus himself is one that guides our lives: “Whoever eats this bread will live for ever….” (John 6:51). So, in our parishes, we work to ensure that the sick and housebound (not just those who are seriously ill or in danger of death) are given appropriate opportunities to receive Holy Communion.
In bringing communion to our sick, the priest (or commissioned Extraordinary Minister) represents Christ and shows faith and charity on behalf of the whole parish toward those who are unable to be present at Mass. For the sick person, communion is a privilege, and a sign of support and concern shown by the Church for its members who are ill. Communion deepens our union with Christ in his triumph over sin and death, in his prayer for the world, and in his love for the Father; as well as deepening our union with the Church family from which we are sometimes separated by illness.
Our care for the sick is guided by the norms of the Catholic Church, expressed in the “Pastoral Care of the Sick”. Section 73 refers to those who are envisaged as receiving Holy Communion from the parish on a regular basis: “the faithful who are ill and who are deprived of their rightful and customary place in the Eucharistic community.”
This presents the Church with some very difficult and potentially controversial pastoral decisions in determining regular communicants. Many through lack of practice have not been to Mass for many years of good health, so have had no customary place. Some “housebound” are not really such – they go out fairly regularly with the help of family members for lunch, for shopping and trips, but those same family members are unable or unwilling to assist in bringing them to Church for Mass. So, in our parish, before a person is included on the regular monthly Sick Communion List, there will be a discussion with the person and family. A specific Communion visit will of course be made to someone who is seriously ill or in danger of death.
Once on the regular list (which in our parish varies between 35 and 45 sick), communion visits are made on a regular basis by appointment by Father Peter. Holy Communion is brought in a small gold container called a Pyx and there is a short prayer service including a reading from the Gospels. These should be special and joyful occasions, so turning off the TV and preparing beforehand are important. These communion liturgies should best be seen as not just a service to be fulfilled but as a real opportunity through the “cross” of illness for the sick to grow in a closer relationship with God. In some cases, there will be additional visits from Ministers, parish visitors, SVP and UCM members.
Finally, a note about Hospitals, which are increasingly secular these days, and many who work in them give no importance to faith or spiritual health. We have Catholic Chaplains assigned, but they can only act when the patient declares as a Roman Catholic and asks the Catholic Chaplain to be notified. So, communication on this matter when someone is admitted to hospital is essential.
For a further note for when sickness becomes more serious, see the next page The Dying.