Saturday, June 15, 2002

What's Really Important

Yesterday afternoon I had an emergency call, to go and anoint a man who was dying. Some priests I have talked to have jokingly remarked on how emergency calls always seem to come at 3:00 in the morning. In my experience, they always seem to come either as I'm just sitting down to lunch or have just sat down and begun to unwind in the evening. Once a call came just after I had lit up a cigar and taken a couple of puffs (those of you who like a good stogie, you know how painful that could be).

So I drove out to the home, and most of the dying man's family was there. I hadn't met them before, but they recognized me, and were very glad to see me. I began the rite of Anointing, and the family alternated between trying to participate and quietly weeping.

Anointings are always moving for me, especially if the person is actually in the process of dying and I pray the prayers of commendation. I think the Prayers for Commendation of the Dying are some of the most moving, powerful prayers in our Tradition.

After the rite was finished, I stayed and talked to some of the family for a little bit. They were very profusely grateful. I always feel a little awkward about that: I think "it's nothing I did, it's the Sacrament working through me." But on the drive back to the rectory, I began reflecting on their gratitude. They weren't grateful to me, Rob Johansen. They were grateful that a priest of Jesus Christ had come to administer the Last Sacraments to their dying father.

While the Bishops were debating their important policies, rules, and position papers, the real Work of the Church was going right along, in obscure, unknown situations like me anointing that dying man. All of the policies and rules and Important Debates are just so much wind compared to that.

And I began thinking about my new blog, and blogging, and about all of the indignation and anger and feelings of betrayal expressed in blogdom about our corrupt and incompetent Shepherds. While it's important that we discuss these things, if they distract us from the Real Work of the Church, then we're part of the Problem.

All the bloggings, bleatings, and bloviations in the world don't amount to beans against the Sacrament by which I helped usher that one soul into eternity.

Blogging is fun, but Anointing that old man is why I Became a Priest.