Saturday, 5 January 2013

Frail and house bound but you can't have a visit from a priest

I don't know the name of the priest that I spoke to by phone at St Paul's church in Haywards Heath but the conversation took place after one email (sent 2 weeks ago) and a couple of phone messages.

I was phoning on behalf of an elderly relative, aged 89, who is house bound and on her own.

She would like to receive Holy Communion on a regular basis but, being an old school traditionalist, she does not wish to receive from an Extraordinary Minister.

I believe that she would also like to go to Confession; she is mentally sound but suffers from short term memory loss.

A stranger turning up on the doorstep would be received with some considerable concern and certainly would not be admitted. But that is really not the point. She needs a priest - full stop.

I finally got through to a priest at St Paul's this evening; I explained that I had emailed him (done so that the situation could be explained sensitively and at length).

"Oh, no problem" said the voice at the end of the phone. "I'll send a 'special minister' round".

"I'm sorry Father but she will only receive from a Priest" says I.

"She needs to grow up" was the retort.

I thought that I had misheard and so I asked him to repeat what he had said.

The reply came back loud and clear with an added sentence.

"She needs to get real. it's impossible"

Any ideas as to how I can achieve this simple and straightforward request will be most welcome.

My initial reaction is to get in touch with the SSPX..........they are for 'real'.


  1. Sadly I am no longer surprised but still shocked. Does the priest not know that a "special minister" cannot hear confession? He should grow up. And the correct term is EXTRAORDINARY minister of Holy Communion. So his education is lacking too.

  2. I would like to know where LOVE, compassion, mercy and grace were in this reaction to the request???

  3. I think you just send a message to the Bishop, recounting the above in as much detail as you've given here, asking him to take responsibility for the situation.

  4. Richard, Have you tried contacting another priest(s) of the same Diocese (A & B I think) - there must be others who would be more sympathetic. You have got the Friary at Crawley/Worth who I believe are very traditionally minded.I would suggest that a visit by a Catholic priest to an elderly frail lady, could be undertaken without reference to an unhelpful/unsympathetic parish priest, who has previously declined/been unable to help. Haywards Heath, Sussex, is easily accessible to many sizeable adjoining towns. Diocesan information available on website.

  5. One of the priests in A&B manages to visit the housebound twice a year - at Christmas and Easter. Wow! The rest of the time it's "ministers", usually women.
    I wouldn't waste paper writing to the bishop.
    If it helps there is, in the nearby area, St Raphael's Nursing Home, Church Lane, Danehill, West Sussex, run by the Augustinian Sisters. It has a chaplain who might be able to step in.

    1. Genty :
      On this as in many other matters, one must sadly use worldly wisdom , coming under the heading of "wise as serpeants".
      Plenty of cases exist where one would once have thoght that one letter would have sufficed for the Bishop to at least investigate.
      So , then, plan B as for secular authority : polite persistance.
      Enough of us have to do it , eggshelltreading politely and carefully, often enough for the unjust judge effect (no comparison deliberately intended) to kick in.Eventually.
      Exasperating, time consuming, and disheartening, I know - well, offer it up for a soul in purgatory,o r the conversion of one's enemies, for example.And say a rosary to take the bad taste away before it festers.
      God bless!

  6. Here is my two cents of advice, and it's probably worth even less! Call another parish, but do not tell the receptionist, etc that the reason for wanting a priest is that your relative won't receive from an EM. Tell them she needs to have her confession heard and given her advanced age, would like to receive what is now known as the Sacrament of the Sick. I think you are more likely to get a positive response this way. Then, assuming you do, when the priest gets around to making the visit, your relative can appeal directly to him to visit her again. And if refuses, start all over again with another parish the next time. It's so unfortunate that it has to be this way. Even with just a single priest assigned to a parish, some effort can be made to make at least some visits to the sick and house-bound each month. It is not impossible, though certainly more convenient for the priest.

  7. Wow, that's truly surprising and oh so sad for your relative. I hope you're able to find a priest who will gladly administer Communion to her.

    I found myself in a similar situation. Although I'm not elderly, I was incapacitated after brain surgery for a tumor and couldn't go to Mass for quite some time. Thankfully, once I was out of the hospital and able to try to swallow anything, one of the priests at my parish (some distance away) who are traditional would come to my Dad's house where I was recuperating and bring me Holy Communion until I was able to get to Mass again.

    Incidentally, I was in the hospital for 2 months, a Catholic hospital, and not once did they send up a priest for me, only women who identified themselves as "Eucharistic Ministers". However, since I wasn't able to take anything by mouth anyway, liquid or solid, for 6 months, they still kept coming on Sundays. One of my sisters told them on a few occasions that "my sister won't receive from anyone but a priest" and the shock was palpable. You could cut the tension with a knife. They seemed to be personally insulted by that.

    Lord help us.

  8. I just checked the bulletin for St Paul's and there appear to be two priests (and two deacons). In any case, whatever the particular circumstances in that parish there is absolutely no excuse for such bad manners.

    Tomorrow's bulletin contains the following, written by the parish priest:

    'There is a practical challenge to modern Christians in this beautifully-written story. It is an epiphany-challenge, a challenge to continue the manifestation of Christ to the world'.

    Ho hum ...

    And I agree with Genty that there would be little point in writing to the bishop. Very sad.

  9. Is this priest the lady's pastor? Unbelievable! It's not a case of rudeness but of extreme callousness for the soul of a sick, housebound parishioner who cannot get the essential sacraments of confession and the Holy Eucharist at the church, and whose salvation is his direct responsibility. The contempt for the Divinely-ordained duties of his priesthood is truly awful. She needs to be given access to the sacraments. This priest needs to be disciplined - for the sake of his own soul as well as those in his care. There is something badly wrong in this priest's soul. Pray for him too.

  10. Also, the priest has a duty to visit the sick and housebound of his parish - to provide them with the sacraments and offer them spiritual succour and comfort. Isn't just visiting the sick one of the corporal acts of mercy that we are all obliged to do?

  11. It isn't ALL E&W :In a not noteworthy diocese Both my parents have died in the uk over the past few years, following long agonies, strokes, operations, and long hospital, housebound, and bedridden periods, and they had communion at home and in hspitalfrom extraordinary ministers, but as an as well as, not an instead of, AND priests. I especially remember around Christmas eight years or so ago a priest came with communion on a moped on a dark cold wet night , by his own choice in preference to an extraordinary mnister , because m' father had just come out of hospital still quite seriously ill and operated on, not by specific request,just because ,and this good and saintly priest was zonked out,they both had vists from priests , extreme unction and anointing of the sick , in an out of hospital from priests and deacons, one LMS-active, BTW, t'others not. On this point, same difference.
    But certainly for a priest to come, old and sick was enough - SUNDAY communion, certainly, was extraordinary ministers, but at least four different priests seemed to have a modus operandi with no prompting that it IS their pidgeon as you might say.
    The village is equidistant from several parishes , and has often been included in odd boundary changes, and so forth- so we even had priests ringing up as soon as they heard, to say would we like them round, and we said of course, but that FRX had already just been today.
    Again always ready to not only give communion but the other sacraments, etc.
    I am so sad to hear that this is not universal E&W.I cannot imagine that , should anyone have been nonaccepting of extraordinary ministers, that they would have behaved differently: I repeat we had several versions time after time of: quote Ive just heard about your Mum /Dad, (+ or-when)would you/they like me to visit them or anything?unquote
    Will be praying for your relative, and her parish.

  12. Richard,
    I am sorry that you had this terrible experience with this particular priest! I sympathise with you; as I had similar encounter, but I would not give in, eventually in the end I got the priest and Not an EMOTE-It is a person right to have a priest for Confession etc,especially when the person is sick or housebound too1 Keep up the good work.

    God Bless,


  13. When hospitalised twice in 2010 I had priests come to the hospitals. Once in Carmarthen for Easter for Confession and Communion which was beautiful, then when in Swansea a local priest went to the hospital EVERY NIGHT to care for and visit EVERY Catholic on their books. Whilst in pre and post op, I received daily Communion. It was fantastic. A chap opposite me said the same priest gave comfort to his mother when she was in hospital some years previously!

  14. A friend of mine was a novice in a clerical order. One Saturday night, someone asked for a priest to administer the last rites. One of the priests commented that he was not "on duty" and that Providence would look after the dying person.

    And it's not just the trendy priests. I was hospitalized with a heart attack. Friends told the traditional rite priest the next day, but it took him three more days before he turned up.

    Such stories will continue until priests come to realize the tremendous and transcendental nature of their distinctive vocation.

  15. ....or until the parishioners realise they are not the only parishioner.

    When I was housebound, then hospitalised five years ago, my hunger was for the Eucharist, not a priest, the Eucharist. Perhaps I am lucky knowing the distinction between the two.

    I would have been happy for Abu Hamza to bring me the Eucharist, as long as I recieved The Eucharist that I craved. Not a visitor, the Eucharist.

    My emphasis has always been the Eucharist (source and summit etc, I am sure you are aware) Never the priest, the Eucharist.

    I hope I have made that clear

    1. Without a priest, there can be no Eucharist. The parishioner receives Our Lord from the consecrated hands of the priest, unless that is not possible or would be very difficult. Sick, housebound people are a priority for their pastors who know they need confession, the Holy Eucharist, and spiritual comfort. If in extremis, they will need the sacrament of Extreme Unction.

    2. Lynda, do you think the Eucharist reverts to the form of bread without priestly presence?

  16. Incidentally, when we have been told someone 'Won't recognise a minister' in our parish, we usualloy find that's the sensitivity of the relative, not the poor person who is sitting at home hungry for the Eucharist.They are happy to just be bought the Eucharist.

    Personally I cannot understand why a loving relative would do that.

  17. Mr do you feel about a priest refusing to bring the Sacrament of Extreme Unction to a dead or dying person late at night?

    1. I assume you just mean dying? The sacrament of the sick is not for the dead.

  18. I'd need to be aware of his reason. This is not something I have ever heard of before, ever.

    However, I don't see how this relates to the subject?

  19. TF - quite often there may be life even when a person appears dead. Back in the early 70s an Air India plane crashed in Staines where I was living at the time. Despite the crash scene being absolute carnage littered with dead bodies, local Catholic priests moved among the wreckage anointing the "dead".
    Here is an extract on the ruling:

    "The priest may not give Extreme Unction to one who is certainly dead; but, according to the testimony of learned
    physicians in our day, a person may still be living, even when it appears that he has breathed his last, since (they say)
    life but gradually departs from the body. Because of this (theory), a priest may and more probably must conditionally
    anoint (and absolve) one who after a lingering illness has already been apparently dead for a half an hour, more or
    less, or one who has already been apparently dead for two or more hours in case of a sudden accident. Hence, it is
    never too late to call the priest. From the answer to the question preceding this, it is easy it see that getting the priest
    may mean the eternal salvation of a soul.

  20. TF - (again) I'm sorry but you presume too much which is quite wrong.
    My relative will not see anyone other than a priest. That is her decision and hers alone. Common sense will also tell you why an old person will only open their door to a priest, see my post.

  21. Lynda - you put it much better than I am able to.

  22. All others, forgive my laziness in not replying individually but Genty has it right in my estimation. I've spent the last 26 years writing to Bishops politely requesting a Mass or querying bad practice.
    I have yet to receive a reply. God bless all who commented.

  23. Do you ever write and say what was done well?

  24. TF - I write on my experiences with the Church in England and Wales so, no, I don't often post on anything done well.

  25. well I am sure it's inspired many a person to join the faith. Just as Jesus commanded us at the end of Matthew's Gospel. Well done.

  26. TF @ 10.40 - you are right and thank you for your commendation.

  27. I have been receiving Holy Communion from our parish Pastoral Associate, a consecrated religious, lovely woman, for 2 years now and have seen neither hide nor hair of our parish priest. When I need to go to confession it is an Opus Dei priest, who is never too busy to drive across the city to hear my confession.

    1. This same parish priest has instructed the people who take Holy Communion to people in the hospital not to ask anyone if they wish to go to confession - just give them the Host.

  28. Victoria, thank you for that. It is sad but,in a sense, I feel greatly supported by your comment.

  29. I was thinking about this again this morning in the light of a very similar story where the daughter in law of a housebound gentleman didn't want a particular priest hearing confession.

    If your aunt is so faithful, why did the priest not know her in the first instance, like we do with all ours?

  30. Incidentally, if you go to
    and scroll to the bottom, you'll dind an 'in an emergency' number.

    I wonder how many parishes have those.

  31. Deacon Tony @ 9.44am - I have to say that your comment has a rather snide element to it. To answer your question; her PP fell ill some time ago and we relied on a Deacon (yes, perhaps relied is the wrong word). The Deacon stopped his visits and, ever since, I have been trying to get them re-instated.