Baptism Confirmation Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Molly G Parenting Pro-Life Issues Special Needs Connection

Seeing Faith: Believing as a Special Needs Parent

When I first heard we were doing a special needs series, I was very happy to contribute and had many ideas flowing. There are so many areas in our faith and faith lives that we can use a voice and guidance. However, the very day this happened was the day my daughter was discharged from the hospital after a month long stay. So today, I will share with you her story and get this series started with some very amazing things that happened.

December 27 started like any other day for our family.  It was my husband’s birthday and we had a lot of family plans including cake and presents.  Halfway through opening presents, Meagan came over to me, put her hands on my leg, and said, “Mommy, my head….” The next thing we knew, she was on the ground out of it – her head bulging, and her eyes glassy. Shortly after she was pressure vomiting and turning color, and I knew we had to get her to the hospital as soon as possible.

For those that don’t know our story, Meagan, my fifth of six daughters, was born with congenital hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). She was shunted at birth, and since then has many other diagnoses that we have dealt with over her 5 1/2 years including epilepsy, chiari malformation, failure to thrive, developmental delay, and many other difficulties. She has had 19 brain surgeries and many other hospital stays and procedures, and daily life with her is nothing short of adventure. I thought we had seen it all with her, as several of her stays and surgeries had been quite serious – until this last time. 

By the time we got Meagan to the hospital, she was grey and not breathing well. The respiratory team tried to help her as best as possible, but her body wasn’t responding. She then started seizing and going downhill. Her carbon dioxide was through the roof and she wasn’t able to breathe on her own. They had to intubate. Unfortunately, she was still pressure vomiting from her shunt failure, so because of what can only be described as the perfect storm, she aspirated. The neurosurgeon took her to surgery and externalized her shunt to relieve the pressure, but the spiral was already too deep. Meagan was not able to breathe on her own and was a very sick little girl. The week following in the PICU, she was fighting aspiration pneumonia and then contracted RSV on top of it all the week after. It was a snowball effect, and any medical mama knows its the secondary infections that worry us most. It sounds crazy to think I was ‘comfortable’ with brain surgery, but that is Meagan’s life. Once aspiration pneumonia and RSV piled on, I was very worried. It was probably the first time in her many surgeries and hospital stays I was concerned she wouldn’t recover.

In times like these, anyone of faith typically turns to that faith as a comfort. But there is just an intensity that is added when you are a parent to a special child. Everyday is such a struggle, that the yearning for them to get well and fight another fight is strong. You know every time they have met challenges, the walls they already fight to break down, and many other hard times they have encountered – so when they are really down, it is a beyond desperate situation. I knew this time was different – that trusted “mom gut” was very apprehensive and not feeling good about Meagan’s situation. So I turned to the only place I knew had more control than I did – my Catholic faith and God who had been with me since before Meagan was born.

Probably towards the middle of Meagan’s precarious stay, I was on pins and needles. Those who know me well could read between the lines of my updates – this was serious and she was really bad. Meagan had been rushed from birth for her first brain surgery, and was baptized and confirmed at birth. So she already had so many graces to help her along, but this time she would need any help she could get. In hindsight, I see that God was showing me signs along the way. At the time I didn’t realize what they were, but now I see He was offering me comfort and hope.

The first chance I got at Children’s, I had a priest come and give Meagan Anointing of the sick. Not too long after, I had a friend offer a St. Gerard cloth to use to pray with Megs. Our parish priest also came and gave her Anointing of the Sick just a week later. And a family member had a priest say Mass for Meagan at Medjugorje when they heard of her precarious state.

When Meagan was not recovering well, a friend of mine had asked if I had any way to get her some Lourdes water. I told her no, I didn’t. It was a great idea, but I didn’t have a way to get her any at that time. The very next day another friend contacted me asking if she could come visit. I said sure and she made her way to the hospital. We sat down and she took out a package. The first thing she took out was a very sacred relic of St. Theresa that another friend had sent her to be brought to our room for Meagan. Meagan’s middle name is Theresa. The second thing she took out saying to me, “I’m not sure if you can use this, but I thought Meagan could really use it right now and I want you to have it.” I took the bottle from her and then saw it was Lourdes water. I got goosebumps. There was zero way that my two friends knew each other and zero way that this friend knew we had discussed Lourdes water for Meagan. It was truly a God moment in a very dark time. 

Not too long after, I was talking with one of my very close friends. She had mentioned St. Joseph oil that would be good for Meagan, but she wasn’t sure where it had gone. It had been her mothers, which was extra special because she prayed a lot for Meagan, but a lot had been happening and she was sure it had been misplaced. The next day she called me and said she had opened a drawer and the bottle of oil was there. She said she would place it in the mail and send it to Meagan. Around the same time, several families organized a local prayer vigil for Megs and brought together people from all aspects of our life at a local venue to pray. The night ended up being very stormy with rain and thunder and lightning all over the place – yet, they still showed up and it was an extremely moving service. 

Meagan had a very tough time with the RSV. She was already struggling neurologically and was fighting the aspiration. But the RSV on top of it all was really bad. She would cough and cough and cough and she would struggle immensely. Her oxygen would drop and it would be a challenge for the nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists to bring her back to a normal saturation. Meagan was still intubated at this time, so they would suction her many times, and all we could do was sit there and hold her hand and talk her through it. She wasn’t awake, but I knew that somewhere deep down, she had to hear me.

One night, Meagan was worse than ever. The coughing fits were constant and she was really struggling. The doctors and therapists were amazing, but she was really having a bad night. I took some of the Lourdes water and rubbed it on her chest praying for relief for her. Soon, her oxygen recovered to a good saturation and she came out of the coughing fit. The therapists were able to suction the sticky and thick phlegm from her lungs for the first time and she seemed to be more comfortable. It was the first time I talked to Meagan and actually saw response from her in her face. I couldn’t believe it because we had not seen much improvement at all before this. For 3 weeks I had waited for signs of my daughter, and that night I got it.

That morning after her terrible night and the storms during the prayer vigil, we had several people text us with pictures of clouds opening with sunlight shining through, and rainbows covering the sky. It was more symbolism that she had turned the corner and was going to be okay. She had overcome several complications, two illnesses, a shunt failure, seizures, and her 19th brain surgery and was once again coming home. After over a month of uncertainty, I was finally given the signs that she was on her way to recovery. Looking back on this last stay with her, I think it was a big reminder of how much we don’t control with Meagan’s life. I think that is something that is hard for special needs parents in general, and a big reason I am thankful for my faith and the signs we were given along the way.

As a special needs parent, you are always in fight mode. Even when your child is doing well, you are preparing, gathering, and learning. You are always on alert and always looking ahead to the next challenge that lies ahead. Are Meagan’s eyes glassy because she’s tired or about to seize? Is Meagan tired because of normal growth, or because her shunt is failing? If Meagan gets sick again, is she going to be able to fight it at home, or will she be back in the hospital fighting for her life? The biggest struggle I face as Meagan’s mom is recognizing and accepting that I don’t control everything in her life. I can be her best advocate, physically and spiritually, and still, I cannot control what ultimately happens. 

As a Catholic mom of a very complicated daughter, our faith has helped me better understand the lack of control we have in lives of our special kids. The faith grounds me when I feel lost, it pushes me when I feel challenged, and it comforts me when we are in times of need. For our family, it’s a great source of strength – and I am so happy that this series is started to help guide us through this journey we are on together. As special needs parents, we know that there are just aspects of our lives that no one else gets except other special needs parents – and this is also true when navigating areas of our faith. We have encountered many challenges and even road blocks along the way, and those times have sparked questions and discussions that I think is important we have as Catholic parents. 

As tough as those times have been, however, I do know one thing – it has made us stronger to hold on to our faith because it is times like Meagan’s most recent stay where you are sitting in a dark hospital room, ice cold as they try to stabilize your child, the only sounds around the beeps of her machines and the bustling of the nurses and doctors trying to help her the best they can.  All you can do is sit there and think, “Not after all she’s been through.. this cannot be …” But luckily for us, we have a light in the darkness – we have a string of hope in very hopeless times – our Catholic faith. 

I’m very excited to go on this journey with you, and discuss ways we can make our everyday experiences even better for those of us who have been privileged enough to have a child with extra challenges. Meagan is a gift. Our faith is a gift … sometimes she sees things that I don’t see … and makes other things come together that we would have never thought possible. We now have the opportunity to share with each other how we can make our faith experience better than ever with our special kids, and from there show the world how much they can teach us and bring us closer to God. 

Meagan asking her sister about Joseph and Jesus
Ink Slingers

Witness to Confirmation

witness-to-confirmationThis weekend’s Confirmation Mass began with a bit of excitement and a late start. Our bishop came pealing into the parking lot from a Fairbanks priest’s funeral with just minutes to spare, but he processed into church cool and composed. I imagine it has happened before in his sixteen years here, with all the necessary airplane rides. He began his homily with a joke, always a good way to start, quipping that since he was late, his exposition of the Scriptures would be short!

And the Scripture readings were ideal for this sacrament being conferred, mostly upon teenagers.

Listen to the angst in Habakkuk: “How long O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence’, but you do not intervene. Why must I look at ruin? Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets…for the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not be late (1:2-3; 2:2-3).”

Then we sang this poetry from Psalm 95: “Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker. For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts (6-8).”

The epistle was from Paul to a young minister Timothy, and was exactly what the teens needed to hear: “Beloved, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a sprit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us (II Timothy 1:6-8,13-14).”

And the Gospel we rose to hear, perfectly answered the ensuing questions about faith and service as they move on as newly confirmed by the Holy Spirit: “Lord, increase our faith. The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would tell this mulberry tree to be and planted in the sea and it would obey you … So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’ (Luke 17:5-10).”

Sacraments celebrate the salvation story using the goodness of creation. God proclaimed it all “Good” and even took upon himself human flesh, revealing that the things of earth are not obstacles to God, but are windows to Heaven. The wonder of creation enables us to glimpse the superabundance of God. We use the stuff of earth just as Jesus did –water, fire, oil, bread, wine, ashes, branches– to be drawn closer to him and to sing with the world, “Bless the Lord, you waters; bless the Lord, sun and moon; bless the Lord, all you winds; bless the Lord, mountains and hills … (This is a lengthy passage from Daniel 3, calling on every part of the earth to bless the Lord; it’s a treat to read!).

For Confirmation, the laying on of hands and annointing with oil are used as God is asked for the grace and courage of the Holy Spirit to boldly confess Christ. It is the flowering of Baptismal grace, the stirring into flame the gifts of God that Paul told Timothy was his by the imposition of his hands. We see it in the very beginning of Christianity, in the books of Acts. There are several instances (8:14-17; 9:17; 19:6) where an apostle laid hands on someone already baptized, to be filled or sealed with the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 6:1-2 lays out the walk of a Christian: “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” The candidates for Confirmation stood before the church, no longer children learning the elementary doctrines, but ready to go on to maturity in their faith. Our bishop placed his hand on their heads, called them by name, and said, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” to which each one answered, “Amen.” And then, “The Lord be with you” was answered with, “And with your spirit.” 

I was happy to witness the sacrament and to pray for them. I look forward to next year, when one of mine will stand before our church ready to move on to her own mature faith. The Mass closed with this blessing for everyone:

“The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples and set their hearts on fire with love; may he bless you, keep you one in faith and love, and bring you to the joy of God’s kingdom.”

Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Sacraments Vocations

Five Tips for a Long, Strong Marriage

Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageOn February 28, I will have been married for 18 years to a man who can still make my heart flutter when I look at him. (Except when he leaves his dishes on the couch.) Approaching our 20-year anniversary has made me think about the lessons we’ve learned over the years about marriage. Our relationship isn’t perfect, of course; we’ve even needed counseling a few times to help us navigate difficult issues. But we’ve held onto each other for nearly two decades, through suffering and struggle, so I humbly share our hard-won wisdom for a lasting, edifying, and satisfying marriage. 

  1. Accept that your mission in marriage isn’t to always be happy, but to become HOLY and help each other get to heaven. My husband and I converted together three years into our marriage. We have always been very compatible and our first years together sans children were a lot of fun. But in RCIA, our first priest emphasized that marriage is a partnership designed to help us become the best versions of ourselves. And that more than anything, we’re to help each other get to heaven. This challenged us to hold each other accountable, to encourage each other spiritually, and to see our union as something bigger than our individual selves. This mindset has also helped us weather those “for worse” times, because it framed them as periods of training in forgiveness and virtue, instead of proof that our relationship was failing. 
  2. Get on the same page financially. Almost every couple I know has struggled with differing habits and expectations about finances, including us. My husband grew up in a wealthy family; I grew up impoverished. To say we had different approaches to money would be an understatement. In past generations, frugality and budgeting were passed on to children from parents who understood the value of “home economics.” If you weren’t taught how to be a good steward of your money, learn how BEFORE you get married, and save yourself the wrangling with your spouse over it. For us, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover was a godsend, but Crown Financial Ministries has a good program, too.
  3. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageMake sex a priority and get counseling if it isn’t. Sex is important because it’s how we renew the marriage covenant; it’s a source of great graces for a couple. Sadly, my sexual hangups often caused me to increasingly avoid intimacy, which sent the message to my husband that I didn’t value being with him. I allowed fear–of being used, being rejected, not looking perfect–to keep me from getting closer to him. My fear of being vulnerable became glaring during an especially rough patch and it wasn’t until I worked through my issues in counseling that I learned to treasure the gift of sex. Beyond grace, sex has a subtle but important effect: It helps you don those “rose-colored glasses” that keep the daily, minor irritations of living together from becoming major annoyances that drive you apart. This is one reason premarital sex is dangerous–those “sexy” glasses make the person seem so wonderful that we’re willing to overlook warnings the person isn’t right for us. 
  4. Keep the marriage relationship a priority, even over the kids. A few years ago, an insurance company surveyed 1,000 couples about their communication. The results were shocking: excluding time asleep, couples now average less than four hours together each week, an hour of which is spent in silence in front TV and 40 minutes doing chores together. Nearly 30 percent said they don’t actually talk until the weekend and one in 10 only talk via phone or by email! Thirteen percent even admitted to using Facebook to learn about their spouse’s life. Maybe you think this won’t happen to you, but even the most in-love, committed couples can fall into the trap of being “too tired” from childrearing or “too busy” with work to nurture the marriage. (Ask me how I know this.) Remember: God made marriage the sacrament, not raising kids. You’re not just roommates; you’re lovers, so act like it. And ladies, don’t always expect him to initiate time together, either. Plan a date night every single week and carve it in stone on your calendar; surely, if dental appointments get a time slot, your marriage should. Just as importantly, plan time together at the end of each day. Go to bed 20 minutes early and just lay there holding hands and talk. Trust me on this. 
  5. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageAgree to trust each other’s judgment when it comes to mental illness or needing outside help. Both my husband and I have periodically suffered from depression and anxiety that necessitated medication and/or counseling. We also needed counseling to help us cope with his PTSD. (See, I told you we weren’t perfect.) Most couples wait until they’re on the brink of divorce before they even consider seeking treatment for problems and then, it’s common for one spouse to refuse outside help. The truth is, it’s hard to think clearly when you’re anxious or depressed. And prolonged strife and emotional estrangement can overwhelm you with fear, anger, and hopelessness. My husband and I have been able to repair our relationship before it’s irrevocably damaged because we’ve agreed to trust each the other when one of us says to the other, “I think you’re depressed and may need medication/counseling” or “I think we need a counselor to help us reconnect and better support each other.” You can’t know what life may bring, so agree ahead of time to use whatever tools are necessary to preserve and heal your marriage–even counseling. 


DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}


MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}




Not Feeling Saintly

Earth, Purgatory, Heaven
Earth, Purgatory, Heaven

As I write this, it is All Saints’ Day, and I’m not feeling saintly.  My Facebook newsfeed today displayed pic after pic of beautiful Saints with encouraging words, reminding me it is my calling to be a saint, too.  And each time I gazed on one, I felt far from this goal.  Be a saint, they say.  Be a saint, the Church says.  Be a saint, Christ says.  Be a saint.

I read the lives of the Saints.  These holy women and men often began their Earthly pilgrimages as your average sinner.  Sts. Augustine and Dominic are the first to come to my mind with the havoc of their adolescent and young adult lives.  Yet, as they matured in their relationship with Christ, the work these holy men did for God while on Earth, their dedication to the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy are, well, saintly, untouchable it seems. 

I see personal friends endure trials the likes of which I have never known, and their faith in God puts me to shame as I see how weak and hole-filled my own faith is.  Other friends dwell in the peace of Christ and in a devotion to His Mother to a degree that my own soul detects that holiness when I am around them.  Their peacefully confident demeanor is a white back drop which proununciates the black of my sinful attitude – my pride, my wrath, my gluttony, my sloth, oh, so ugly.

I even hear these friends speak so humbly about how they, too, struggle with sins, and I can’t help but attribute this directly to their humility. To the eye of my soul, these friends are nearly sinless and may as well be canonized now, and yet in their humility they can’t even see it. 

Is it possible that one can participate regularly in the Sacraments and not eventually be made holy by them?  I feel like that could be the case with me, but that is my sinful despair talking.  The truth is, if I remain faithful to Christ, faithful to His Grace which He imparts to my soul in the Sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and in Reconciliation, then I have no choice but to know that He, in return, is faithfully working to make me holy, saintly.

Indeed, the truth is, when I reflect on my own Earthly pilgrimage,  I am compelled to notice how His Grace has healed my broken will, my injured heart, dwelling in my soul.  It wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t know what any of the Sacraments really were for, nor cared.  It wasn’t so long ago that I embraced the world’s teachings on morality and cast off the Church’s teachings as old fashioned.  It wasn’t so long ago that prayer never entered my mind, and now prayer is often flowing through my mind.  I suppose, God’s grace is indeed sufficient, for even my own soul.  Perhaps Christ is making a saint of me, too.

“He must increase; I must decrease.”

John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus.  Jn 3:30

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

Jesus, to his disciples.  Jn 6:54

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” 

Jesus, to the skeptical Jews.  Jn 10:27

“Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Jesus, to his disciples, the night before he died.  Jn 15:4



All you Holy Men and Women, pray for us!

7 Quick Takes Apologetics Baptism Christi Communion Confession Confirmation Doctrine Faith Formation Holy Orders Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Matrimony Sacraments

7 Quick Takes – the Seven Sacraments

I was rolling quite a few ideas around in my head while the calendar days were being scratched off much more quickly than I cared to see and my deadline loomed larger and larger. I bounced a few of these ideas off on my 18 yr old and he suggested that since I needed seven quick takes – why not review the seven sacraments…  As he so wisely pointed out; we are coming up fast on Lent and what could be better to ponder  at this time than the seven sacraments instituted by Christ and maintained by our catholic church?  How do you argue with such wisdom?

So subdue the drum rolls, please, as I roll out this month’s Seven Quick Takes (and we’re linking up to This Ain’t The Lyceum).

7 baptismal fontQuick Take one: Baptism

According to our Catechism (CCC 1211) these seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is comprised of the sacraments of Christian initiation. And the first of these is Baptism and is the first step that we take as we embark on our Christian journey; regardless whether we are baptized as an infant or as an adult. Jesus himself was baptized by his cousin St. John the Baptist before being led “by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty day and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Mathew 4:1-2)

According to St Gregory of Nazianzus; “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water: anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed: enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship. (Oratio 40 preached at Constantinople Jan 6,381)

Quick Take two:  Confirmation (or Chrismation)7 confirmation

The second of the initiation sacraments is Confirmation during which we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism (CCC 1831) these are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.



7 holy communionQuick Take three: Eucharist

Within the Roman rite – one’s first Holy Communion is typically received around the seventh year of life which is determined by the church as the beginning of the age of reason and marks the beginning of, hopefully, a lifetime of receiving this life giving sacrament.  Within the Eastern rites the infant receiving baptism immediately following also receives Chrismation and the ‘admission to Eucharistic Communion’.  (CCC 1233) These three sacraments complete the initiation sacraments.


7 pennanceQuick Take Four: Penance and Reconciliation

Penance is one of the two Sacraments of healing   that Christ instituted for his Church to offer His people.  “The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health,3 has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.” (CCC  1421)

Some may ask why, once we are washed clean through the act of baptism, is there a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession? The Council of Trent (1549) answers this perfectly as quoted in the Catechism: “Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.”

It is through the sacrament of penance, as instituted by Christ through St Peter, (Mathew 16:13-20  that we are able to be washed clean and be healed of our sins.

The Catholic Catechism answers the question of what is this sacrament called with the following:

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

Lent is a wonderful time to take advantage of this sacrament – especially if it is a sacrament that has fallen by the wayside. When I read the explanation of this sacrament in the catechism it filled me with resolve not to miss this wonderful opportunity to be filled with Christ’s grace.


7 annointing of the sickQuick Take Five: Anointing of the Sick

There are some misunderstandings surrounding this sacrament. At one time it was known as the ‘receiving of last rites” because it was, and still is, a sacrament used to fortify “the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.” (Council of Trent 1551) However, it is also a sacrament through which Jesus can unify our suffering with his and thus support the Church and, if it is for the good of our soul, also bring us physical healing from a grave illness. Contrary to the misbelief that one can only receive the Anointing of the Sick once in a lifetime; if one recovers from a grave illness for which they have been anointed and later faces death again, or is suffering intensely and is in need of fortification, they can once again receive this sacrament.  (CCC 1515)

This sacrament is based in Jesus’ command to heal the sick (Mathew 10:1-8) as well as through tradition.

“… the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments” (CCC 1510)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this quick takes post the Catholic Church has the three sacraments of initiation through which the Christian begins his journey to heaven. In addition, the church uses three sacraments to assist a Christian on the last leg of this journey. These are the sacraments: of penance, (when possible) the anointing of the sick and the Eucharist.  The administering of the Eucharist when in danger of death is referred to as Viaticum.

The anointing of the sick can only be administered by a priest whereas the Viaticum can be administered by a priest, a deacon or an extraordinary minister, using the reserved Blessed Sacrament.


7 holy ordersQuick Take Six: Holy Orders 

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.”  (CCC 1536)

Holy orders is one of the two sacraments that the Church refers to as sacraments of salvation.  (CCC 1534) The sacrament of Holy orders is conferred  through the Bishop laying his hands on the head of the ordinand while asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.  It is only a bishop that can confer this sacrament which imprints an indelible sacramental character upon the recipient who must be a baptized member of the church. Only the Church authority has the responsibility and right to call someone to Holy Orders.

While I have links to the three degrees of the priesthood above I will give a brief description of them. The episcopate refers to the Bishops and their duties, the presbyterate refers to the priests and the diaconate is the most obvious as it refers to our deacons.

What some may not know is that there are two forms of the diaconate. There is the permanent diaconate and the transitional. The transitional deaconate belongs to the seminarian who is preparing to become a priest. While the spiritual mark on his soul is permanent when he is ordained a deacon, he does eventually transition into the priesthood when he is ordained. On the other hand, the permanent deacon belongs to the man who is not, at that time in his life, feeling the call to the priesthood. He may or may not be married when ordained. If single the acceptance of ordination requires a commitment of celibacy and if married at the time of his ordination, should his wife pass away after ordination he may not re-marry. He may though, if called, become a priest.

We have all, at one time or another been inspired, by various members of the religious in our lives. Sometimes, though, we have felt let down by one priest or another. However, regardless of our feelings, or the personality of any particular priest, the sacraments celebrated by him are never invalid or impure.  This is emphasized quite powerfully by St. Augustine and, as such he is quoted in the Catechism: Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.” (CCC 1584)

That is so reassuring and perhaps one of the most important things we can remember about the sacrament of the Holy Orders – that our priests are acting “in persona Christi”.


7 marriageQuick Take Seven: Sacrament of Matrimony

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601) This understanding of this sacrament is the same in both the Eastern and Western (Latin) rite. In the Latin rite the spouses mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church and this is the same within the Eastern Rites except that in order for the sacrament to be held valid the priest must also extol his blessing on the couple.  (CCC 1623)

The sacrament of marriage is the other sacrament that is for the salvation of others. In fact, the Second Vatican Council refers to the family as the Ecclesia domestica or the Domestic Church. This is very apt as it is within the family that we exercise the ”priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.’ Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”  Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC 1656)

It is the duty of the wife and husband to aid each other in getting into heaven and as well the duty of the parents to raise their children in such a way that they are well prepared to continue their personal journey to heaven so it is very fitting that this is called a sacrament of salvation.

This concludes our Seven Quick Takes of the seven sacraments.  A much heavier quick takes than usual, I admit. My topic for next month promises to be a little lighter but not much. I know that by the first Friday of March I will be a tad lost in my efforts to follow the resolutions I will set for myself on Ash Wednesday. I will be flagging quite a bit – if Lent follows its norm for me. I plan to take March’s quick takes as an opportunity to reset myself with seven suggestions that not only I can follow, but anyone who is also lagging a little in the middle of the race. My hopes is that we can apply one or more of them to our Lenten sacrifice and find ourselves ready to head for the finish line and the celebration that follows. Until then, a bientot!