Monday, 3 October 2011

A tragedy that had a good outcome

Ten days ago our neighbour J was rushed into hospital where she soon lapsed into unconsciousness. She is in her eighties; it was not totally unexpected as she had been ill for some time.
Her husband S was in a bad way emotionally and all of the neighbours rallied round to support him. Last Thursday I went to do my bit and he had a list of queries that he required help with.
Much of the list was taken up with making arrangements for the funeral, disposing of J's clothes and so on. Yet, she was still alive.

To some this might seem morbid or callous but I think that it was his way of coping with the trauma. I am sure that many priests will have witnessed the same preoccupation with planning detail; I do not think that it is that uncommon.

His last query to me was: "How do I find a vicar, not one of those modern types?"

My response, of course, was to the effect that this was one issue I could not help with as I was a Catholic.

Then he dropped the bombshell by stating that J was also a Catholic but had not been near a Catholic church for many, many years and was very bitter about the faith as was he.

I decided to leave it there for the time being; any further attempt to steer him towards contacting a priest would have only resulted in more determined and bitter opposition.

But the next day, in the company of Mrs Linen, we tackled him on the subject again. After all, we said: "Once a Catholic always a Catholic". He mused on this and then Mrs L came in with a nifty bit of lateral thinking and suggested that the hospital would put him in touch with the appointed Catholic chaplain.

The upshot was that he phoned us that evening to say that he had spoken to the hospital Catholic chaplain over the phone and that, the priest had said that he was dropping everything to go and administer the Last Rites to J there and then - what a great man!

In the small hours of this morning J died without regaining consciousness but with the saving grace of having been welcomed back into full communion with Christ and His Church through the sacrament of Extreme Unction.

Phew! A close shave and a saving route that was surely guided by her Guardian Angel.

Please say a prayer for her eternal soul.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.


  1. I am praying for Mrs J and her husband.

    I need some advice here. If someone is not at peace with God, and unconscious, does administering the last rites and Extreme Unction bring them back into God's forgiveness? Strictly speaking, the unconscious person has had no say in the actions of the priest.

    This is a genuine question. I'm not being facetious.

    Thanx. God bless.

  2. Hi Victor and thanks for your prayers.
    Yes, reception of the sacrament, even whilst unconscious, removes the stain of mortal sin from the soul, leaving it free to undergo Purgatory.
    God bless.

  3. I'm sorry to come back Richard. I've thought about what you've said and I'm still confused.

    Why should Extreme Unction remove mortal sins and not the venial ones? Why spend time in Purgatory? Why don't the last rites forgive all sins and send people straight to Heaven?

    My questions, now, apply regardless whether the person is unconscious or not. Would not a conscious person receiving the last rites be forgiven of all sins?

    God bless.

  4. Sorry to have confused Victor, all sins are washed away by the Sacrament of Extreme Unction - I mentioned mortal ones because, as we know,if we die in mortal sin there is no hope.

    Purgatory seems a likely stopping off point for someone who has not been to Mass for c.30 years and who has (probably) accrued a few sins in that period.

    We go to Purgatory if we die in a state of grace ie with no mortal sins on our soul. Even if we are conscious, go to confession and receive the Last Rites, this may still not be sufficient to allow us entry straight to Heaven.
    We have to make reparation for our sins committed on earth.
    I use a simple analogy. If you break a neighbour's window in a fit of pique you, of course pay for the damage and are hopefully forgiven.
    That is the 'confession' element but then you would wish to make up for the damage by, perhaps sending your neighbour a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates, that is the reparation element.
    Our sins offend God so we confess them and are forgiven but going to Purgatory gives us a chance to make full amendment for them.

  5. Thank you Richard for taking the time to respond.

    I really was not aware that if a conscious person confesses his sins to a priest, has Communion and dies straight afterwards (i.e. in hospital) he would still go to Purgatory.

    God bless.

  6. How wonderful Richard, and well done to you and the missus for your charitable persistence.
    May the Lord have mercy on the dear lady's soul.

  7. What a touching story of two faithful Catholics bringing home one of the lost sheep. RIP that soul dear to Christ.
    The prayer I say daily when praying for a happy, peaceful and holy death was taught to me in childhood. It didn't mean an awful lot then. It does now.
    Jesus, Mary and Joseph I give you my heart and my soul.
    Jesus, Mary and Joseph assist me in my last agony.
    Jesus, Mary and Joseph may I with you breathe forth my soul in peace.

  8. In J's case it may have been a "somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good"
    Many a tale of priests attending at someone's last dying moment and to learn of a prayer that had been said or scapular worn with promises of Our Blessed Lords intervention at the last moments of life.These prayers and promises are mostly absent in RE these days, sadly, they are not visible to the average parishioner of Vat.2 type unless of course a traditional minded priest is in residence. God's got a plan I'm sure.