Saturday, 7 January 2012

This is what happens when a plane crashes

June 1972 and the worst air disaster in British aviation history was about to take place.

The BEA (BA) airliner Flight 548 had just taken off from London Heathrow, destination Brussels.

On board were 118 passengers and crew.

The last flight of BEA 548

Within minutes it had crashed and was a smouldering wreck, miraculously, it had missed the built up Thames side town of Staines and landed in a field on the edge of town.

Now, an impossible link to EF Pastor Emeritus and his excellent post on the Holy Father's instruction to priests with regard to the Sacrament of the Sick.

In brief Pope Benedict has said that:

"Anointing of the sick is a sacrament that deserves “greater consideration” today because of the spiritual benefits to minister and recipient".
And much more besides.

But what takes my attention is EFP's remark that "Pope Benedict noted that the sacrament formerly known as Extreme Unction, may be administered in various human situations connected with illness, and not only when a person is at the end of his or her life".

Of course, I am not taking issue with the Holy Father or with  EFP for that matter.

What concerns me a little is the phrase "formerly known as Extreme Unction".

I like to still call it that. Why not?

The sacrament has not changed, the title has and I am not overly certain that the modern title does the sacrament justice.

Now...please use all your forebearance and come back with me to Staines on the 18th June 1972. I was newly married and living in?

You are right! Staines!

Not that we heard the crash. But I do remember the newsreel footage of the day showing local priests who had come running (literally) to the scene and who administered, not the sacrament of the sick (nearly all of the 118 on board were dead and the one or two that were still alive, died within a few minutes of crashing).

No - the priests were administering Extreme Unction, the Last Rites.

And a most moving sight it was, watching them move slowly and purposefully from dead body to dead body. You may see one of them on the video clip below, at 1:47

That is what our priests do and it is a great and wonderful act of mercy.


  1. I've always admired priests who are able to give such priority to this sacrament. I'm reminded of Fr. Capodanno, who died running around a battlefield in Vietnam giving Last Rites to wounded Marines. With wounds such as a nearly-severed hand, he tried to reach an injured soldier, but was shot and killed. God bless the priests who are willing to go so far out of their way to administer this sacrament.

  2. Two of my sons have received this Sacrament which gives forgiveness of sins and healing, be it spiritual healing for the final journey or mortal life giving. A wonderful gift and grace of the Church.

  3. Daniel - a moving account also. Safe journey home

    Ros - yes it's a great and mystical sacrament. I know of many who have recovered or rallied as a result of its reception.

  4. Thanks for the link...though why "impossible"?
    I often ministered that Sacrament to people about to undergo major surgery when I was a full-time hospital chaplain.
    I am a great believer in the power of the Sacrament and indeed so were many doctors and nurses! One Presbyterian surgeon who always visited those on whom he was due to operate - even if referred by another - would on discovering that the patient was a Catholic, recommend that they receive that Sacrament. When I discussed that with him he replied that he could always see a big difference in how patients responded to operation when they had received Sacrament of the sick, as against those who had not!

    Once A Muslim Surgeon whose patient kept "dying" during a heart operation eventually asked what religion the patient had and on being told Catholic, said send for the Catholic chaplain! I had to enter the theatre and anoint the patient on the operating table. He stabilised and recovered! I know many, including some priests , who will regard that as superstition. It never ceases to amaze me how blind some "liberals" can be to the evidence.

  5. EFP - only "impossible" because the leap from plane crash to the sacrament was a bit of a leap, I thought.
    God bless Father.

  6. But "nothing is impossible" ..... :-)

    Happy New Year and God bless you too.