Friday, April 01, 2005

Holy Father's condition "very grave"

By now it is being reported all over the press this morning that the Holy Father's condition is "grave." That report did not come from some liberal reporter wishing the Pope dead, but from the Vatican itself. In this way, we can be certain that it is true. According to the statement, the Pope received Last Rites with Viaticum yesterday, a sign that he himself believes that his time on earth is nearing its end. I have not heard who administered the Sacrament to him, but my guess would be that it was his Private Secretary.

This morning, I saw the unusual sight of Archbishop John P. Foley, Chair of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, on Today explaining for non-Catholics just what the Last Rites are. Archbishop Foley is often the Voice of the Holy See to the world, as it is his voice that people hear on Christmas Eve during Midnight Mass translating the proceedings to the English-speaking peoples. Rarely is he ever seen on American media outlets (even though he is American) other than EWTN, because anything he says can be taken totally out of context by the mainstream press. The fact that he was all over the morning news-talk programs on U.S. television this morning, and was attending the convention of the National Catholic Education Association, shows that Rome sees a need to send him far and wide to insure the world that all is stable in the Apostolic Palace.

A note to those who are not Catholic: The Last Rites are also called the Sacrament of the Sick. Anyone who is ill may ask for them, and the most important part of this ritual is an annointing with Holy Oil along with a "laying on of hands" on various parts of the body and prayers for spiritual and, if it is the Lord's Will, physical healing. Along with the annointing, the recipient may ask for their confession to be heard. If they are in serious danger of death, a third part of the Last Rites, Viaticum, or "bread for the journey" is also administered. It is the reception of Holy Communion, possibly for the last time, by the person whose life is nearing an end. I have had the Sacrament of the Sick and obviously I am here to write about it. Just because someone receives it does not necessarily mean they are about to die. It is the reception of Viaticum that is an indication that the Pope believes he is about to be removed from this transitory life.

Whatever the Lord's will for the Pope, let us pray with a fervent prayer that God would guide the Church in the coming days. John Paul II has been a spiritual giant, doing more good for the Church and the world during his time as Pope than ever could be put into words in these pages. He is simply irreplacable. May God guide the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church to the election of a Successor worthy to fill the shoes of this Holy man, whenever that time may come.


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