The Persistent Widow: Knocking, Seeking, Asking

I recently got a call from a more-than-persistent lady to visit her Vietnamese father, who was unbaptized.   I explained to the daughter that with the current hospital regulations, I could only go if he wants me there.

I had met him a while ago when he was at Fairfax Hospital for a different reason, and it was clear at that time that he enjoyed my visits, especially after he told me about his life.  He practiced no religion, and the closest thing to religion was being a stoic (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism for more information on Stoicism). However, he did go to Catholic School in Vietnam and was familiar with priests.

He told me how he was given the bronze star by the U.S. Government. He was a doctor by trade, and although he was not an American, he risked his status in his own country by saving U.S. service men during the Vietnam war. It was for this service that he received the Bronze Star.  Unfortunately, this was also the reason that the Communist Government in Vietnam put him in a concentration camp for five years. He eventually made it to America by boat and became a doctor here in Virginia.

I went to visit him often back then because he liked my visits and the fact that I considered him a hero. However, when I asked him then if he wanted to be baptized, he said “No.”  I asked him three times over the two months that he was at the hospital, but he always said “No.”  I finally accepted his answer, knowing that baptism is a sacrament of Faith, and that is it up to God to give a person that Faith.

Last week, I was told he had a fall and was back at the hospital. I got a text message that his daughter was in the room and she was asking if I could visit him.  I came right away (this was on Sunday), and I asked him one more time “Do you want to receive baptism?”  This time, he said a clear “Yes!”  To make sure I heard right, I asked him again, and he again said “Yes.”

I went to the Chaplain’s office to get the Chrism oil so I could also give him confirmation. On the way to office, I got the idea of using Venerable Francis Xavier Tuan as his confirmation saint.  I called the Vicar General, who told me that a confirmation saint had to be a Blessed or Saint.  Since this was around the 3 o’clock hour, I decided on St. Faustina instead.  So during this hour of Mercy, I administer Baptism and Confirmation, as well as giving him Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick.

Later that day, the daughter texted me 2 pictures from the room. There was a beautiful small image of the Divine Mercy that a previous family of a patient had put under some glass.  How fitting!  Also later that day (Sunday), while I was talking with a man outdoors, a white dove came to my feet.  I immediately thought of this man, and saw the dove as a positive sign.

In closing, a few days later (Wednesday), I got this text from his daughter – “My father passed away 10 am to heaven to be w/ God, Mother Mary & his son. Please pray for him.”

Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary – Multimedia

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

This video combines Fr. Stefan Starzynski praying the Rosary (Glorious Mysteries), and inspirational thoughts and pictures that hopefully help you in your meditations.

For a variety of reasons, many people who are sick may not be able to hold a Rosary or read written prayers.  In some cases, they may not even be able to say the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers out loud. However, they can still listen to and pray along with these prayers in their minds and hearts.  

We have designed these videos for everyone, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired.  We pray that many will find these prayers useful and may grow closer to God through them.  If you prefer, you can also download them as a podcast.

If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We need at least 100 subscribers before we can change the name of our channel to CDAHospitalMinistry. This will make it easier for people to find us (especially if they are in the hospital) and to share our link with others.

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary – Multimedia

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

This video combines Fr. Stefan Starzynski praying the Rosary (Sorrowful Mysteries), and inspirational thoughts and pictures that hopefully help you in your meditations.

For a variety of reasons, many people who are sick may not be able to hold a Rosary or read written prayers.  In some cases, they may not even be able to say the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers out loud. However, they can still listen to and pray along with these prayers in their minds and hearts.  

We have designed these videos for everyone, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired.  We pray that many will find these prayers useful and may grow closer to God through them.  If you prefer, you can also download them as a podcast.

If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We need at least 100 subscribers before we can change the name of our channel to CDAHospitalMinistry. This will make it easier for people to find us (especially if they are in the hospital) and to share our link with others.

Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary – Multimedia

The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

This video combines Fr. Stefan Starzynski praying the Rosary (Luminous Mysteries) and inspirational thoughts and pictures that hopefully help you in your meditations.

For a variety of reasons, many people who are sick may not be able to hold a Rosary or read written prayers.  In some cases, they may not even be able to say the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers out loud. However, they can still listen to and pray along with these prayers in their minds and hearts.  

We have designed these videos for everyone, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired.  We pray that many will find these prayers useful and may grow closer to God through them.  If you prefer, you can also download them as a podcast.

If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We need at least 100 subscribers before we can change the name of our channel to CDAHospitalMinistry. This will make it easier for people to find us (especially if they are in the hospital) and to share our link with others.

Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary – Multimedia

The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

This video combines Fr. Stefan Starzynski praying the Rosary (Joyful Mysteries), and inspirational thoughts and pictures that hopefully help you in your meditations.

For a variety of reasons, many people who are sick may not be able to hold a Rosary or read written prayers.  In some cases, they may not even be able to say the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers out loud. However, they can still listen to and pray along with these prayers in their minds and hearts.  

We have designed these videos for everyone, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired.  We pray that many will find these prayers useful and may grow closer to God through them.  If you prefer, you can also download them as a podcast.

If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We need at least 100 subscribers before we can change the name of our channel to CDAHospitalMinistry. This will make it easier for people to find us (especially if they are in the hospital) and to share our link with others.

Divine Mercy Chaplet – Multimedia

Divine Mercy Chaplet

This video combines Fr. Stefan Starzynski praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and inspirational thoughts and pictures that hopefully help you in your meditations.

For a variety of reasons, many people who are sick may not be able to hold a Rosary or read written prayers.  In some cases, they may not even be able to say the Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, or other prayers out loud. However, they can still listen to and pray along with these prayers in their minds and hearts.  

We have designed these videos for everyone, including those who may be visually or hearing impaired.  We pray that many will find these prayers useful and may grow closer to God through them.  If you prefer, you can also download them as a podcast.

If you like our videos, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We need at least 100 subscribers before we can change the name of our channel to CDAHospitalMinistry. This will make it easier for people to find us (especially if they are in the hospital) and to share our link with others.

Difference Between Anointing of the Sick & Last Rites (Part 4)

A “Rite” is defined as a formal and/or religious ceremony which involves specific words and actions.   The term “Last Rites” then refers to several different ceremonies – or sacraments – that are administered towards the end of a person’s life.   The three sacraments that are given during Last Rites are Confession, the Eucharist (as Viaticum), and Anointing of the Sick, in that order.

Viaticum comes from two Latin words – Via meaning “road” or “path” or “journey”, and tecum meaning “with you” – put together, Viaticum means “with you on your journey.”  Jesus promised us that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:54).  The Eucharist is our connection between this life on Earth and our eternal life, and through the Body and Blood of Christ, we pass over from this world (death) to the Father (eternal life).

In some cases, a dying person may also be given the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation prior to the Last Rites, if they had not previously received these sacraments but wish to do so now.  Often a priest will also offer an apostolic pardon for the dying: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.

So just as the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are considered the sacraments of Christian initiation, so too we can say that the sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist (as Viaticum), and Anointing of the Sick constitute the sacraments for the end of our earthly pilgrimage and the initiation for our heavenly life.

Remember that while it is one of the sacraments used in the Last Rites, Anointing of the Sick is NOT only for those who are dying.  You may receive this Sacrament at any time during your life when you are facing a serious illness or medical procedure and need the grace and healing of this sacrament.

What Is Involved in the Rite of Anointing of the Sick? (Part 3)

During Anointing of the Sick (found in the Rite of Pastoral Care of the Sick), a priest first blesses the olive oil (if it is not already blessed) and then uses the blessed oil to anoint the person.  The priest first anoints the forehead, saying: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”  He then anoints the hands, saying: “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.”  Interestingly, if Anointing of the Sick is being given to a priest, then just the tops of his hands are anointed, since the palms of his hands had already been anointed at his ordination.

While Anointing of the Sick is most commonly given in an individual setting, sometimes it may be given in a larger group during or after the celebration of the Mass.  The Church understands that every Mass imparts the grace inducive to healing, but the Rite of Pastoral Care for the Sick includes extra prayers and instructions on how to celebrate Anointing of the Sick within the Mass.  However, the Rite of Pastoral Care for the Sick also cautions that “if offered during Mass, the sacrament may not be administrated to all and sundry but only to those who qualify for its reception. … In particular, the practice of indiscriminately anointing numbers of people on these occasions simply because they are ill or have reached an advanced age is to be avoided. Only those whose health is seriously impaired by sickness or old age are proper subjects for the sacrament.”

In addition to that, there is a specific “Mass for the Sick” in the Roman Missal that contain prayers specifically focused on healing.  In some cases, after a priest celebrates a “Mass for the Sick,” he then spends time praying over people and asking for their healing.  Often called a “Healing Mass,” this is NOT the same as the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  In 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the Church’s “Instruction on Prayers for Healing” where they lay out the groundwork for these healing services.  Some of these instructions include:

  • Every member of the faithful may pray to God for healing, either for themselves or for others. It is only when this is organized in a church or other sacred place that such prayers should be led by an ordained minister. This is unlike Anointing of the Sick, which can only be administered by an ordained priest (taken from Article 1).
  • Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism, especially on the part of those who are in charge of such gatherings, must not take place (taken from Article 5, section 3).
  • Those who direct healing services, whether liturgical or non-liturgical, are to strive to maintain a climate of peaceful devotion in the assembly and to exercise the necessary prudence if healings should take place among those present. If appropriate, when the celebration is over, any testimony can be collected with honesty and accuracy, and submitted to the proper ecclesiastical authority (taken from Article 9).

What Exactly IS Anointing of the Sick? (Part 2)

Unfortunately, there are still some misconceptions among the faithful about the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Some still call it “Extreme Unction” and assume it is only intended for those who are dying.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a clearer understanding of this sacrament by stating that “the Anointing of the Sick ‘is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived.’  If a sick person who received this anointing recovers his health, he can in the case of another grave illness receive this sacrament again. If during the same illness the person’s condition becomes more serious, the sacrament may be repeated. It is fitting to receive the Anointing of the Sick just prior to a serious operation. The same holds for the elderly whose frailty becomes more pronounced.” (CCC 1514-1515)

The Catechism then goes on to list the effects of Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1532):

  • the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
  • the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
  • the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
  • the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
  • the preparation for passing over to eternal life.

So basically, anyone is eligible for this sacrament if they are seriously ill or reaching the end of their life (such as the elderly), or in a situation where there is a risk of death, such as a serious operation.  If a person recovers but becomes seriously ill again, or if their illness becomes worse, they may receive this sacrament more than once.  Note that the Catechism stresses that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is for “the Christian experiencing the difficulties inherent in the condition of grave illness or old age.” (CCC 1527)

Another common misconception is that if you are suffering with any kind of illness, including a common cold or a chronic condition such as asthma or arthritis, you can receive Anointing of the Sick.  To answer this misconception, let’s look again at the Catechism: “The Anointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy anointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house” (CCC 1523, emphasis mine).  Since the sacrament is meant to fortify us at the end of our earthly life, then it would be inappropriate to confer this on someone who does not have a serious illness and/or is not facing a potentially life-threatening procedure such as surgery.  The Church gives us other sacraments of healing, such as the Eucharist and Confession, to help fortify us in our daily life struggles.

A third misconception (but not as common) is that a person who has already died can receive Anointing of the Sick.  However, all the sacraments are a means to confer the sacramental and sanctifying grace of God upon a living person, and in particular, the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is meant to help prepare a person for his journey after death.   Once a person has died, he is no longer able to receive this grace.  “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. … Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through a purification or immediately – or immediate and everlasting damnation” (CCC 1021-1022). While it is recommended and encouraged to say prayers for the deceased, it is not proper to administer the Sacrament of Anointing to a dead person.

History of Anointing of the Sick Sacrament (Part 1)

In the early Church, the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Communion) were celebrated together regardless of the person’s age – from infancy to old age.  However, by the fifth century, these sacraments were separated in the Latin Rite, where Baptism was normally given to infants, Confirmation was bestowed around the age of 7, and first Holy Communion was reserved for teenagers.  By 1910, Pope Saint Pius X decided that the age of discretion or reason – a requirement needed to receive First Communion – should be lowered to 7 years old as well.

Currently under Church Law, the normal age for First Communion is 7 and Confirmation is between 7 and 16, where each bishop may determine the appropriate age within his own diocese.  In the Latin Rite, it is usually during the Easter Vigil that all three Sacraments are given at the same time to people entering the Catholic Church after a period of preparation.   However, in a life-and-death emergency at the hospital, a priest may administer Baptism, Confirmation, and first Holy Communion (if appropriate) at the same time.  Interestingly, in the Byzantine Catholic rite, all three Sacraments of Initiation are still administered at the same time, regardless of age, as it was done in the early Church.

The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has also changed dramatically over the centuries. In the Gospels, we read of Jesus’ many encounters with the sick and of his mercy in healing them from illnesses of the spirit and of the body. Jesus sends his disciples to perform the same work and gives them the power to heal: “They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” (Mark 6:13). 

Later, St. James instructed: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-16).  It is significant that the first major event following Pentecost was a dramatic healing when in the name of Jesus, Peter healed a crippled man at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-8).

In the centuries that followed, references to the power of anointing toward physical healing can be found in the writings of St. Irenaeus in the year 150 AD, St. Ephrem in 350 AD, St. Caesar in 502 AD, and St. Bede in 753 AD. In fact, all known documents from the early Church show that the rite of anointing was meant to prepare the sick for healing and not necessarily for death.  However, by the time of the Middle Ages, this Sacrament began to be viewed more as preparation for death, rather than being primarily a means of healing.

Subsequently, anointing was usually accompanied by the Sacraments of Penance and/or Communion, and only priests were allowed to administer these sacraments. Anointing of the Sick gradually lost its healing dimension and became associated with the “last rites” of the church before death, resulting in it being called “Extreme Unction” or “final anointing.” Because of this, many people avoided it or waited until death was imminent before requesting it.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) reinforced the fact that this sacrament was instituted by Christ, should be administered to those who are close to death, and can only be done by a priest.  It stated that the significance of the sacrament is “the grace of the Holy Ghost; whose anointing cleanses away sins, if there be any still to be expiated, as also the remains of sins; and raises up and strengthens the soul of the sick person, by exciting in him a great confidence in the divine mercy; whereby the sick being supported, bears more easily the inconveniences and pains of his sickness; and more readily resists the temptations of the devil who lies in wait for his heel; and at times obtains bodily health, when expedient for the welfare of the soul.

Several centuries later, in 1963, the Second Vatican Council restored the sacrament to its earliest purpose and renamed it “Anointing of the Sick.” Vatican II made changes to the Rite, establishing that Viaticum (final Eucharist) should be regarded as the true sacrament of the dying whereas Anointing of the Sick was to be seen as an expression of God’s presence in the midst of human illness, and Christ’s healing power and concern for all those who are seriously sick.  Hence, the sacrament of Anointing was restored to its original purpose of healing the seriously ill, asking the Lord to lighten their sufferings and to heal them.

Friendship, Four loves and suffering

I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves, which includes Affection (storge), Friendship (philia), Romantic (eros), and Charity (agape).  Lewis says Friendship love is the most spiritual of all the loves.  It is also the one love that is least written about. Why?  Because you can’t live without Affection, Eros or Agape, but you can live without friendship. There is a mercy in Friendship love that is unique.

Friendship love is the least demanding of all the love. In Eros and Agape, there is a duty to love, but in Friendship love, you can act with love simply because you want to.  You can know someone for 40 years and yet, they never become a friend.  You can know someone for 5 minutes and they will always be your friend.  Someone becomes a friend not because they have to, but because they want to.  In other words, we choose to make someone a friend.

In Eros and Agape, there is usually a likeness between two people.  But in friendship love, there is often no likeness.  It is a mystery why a Ph.D. scholar and homeless person become friends, or an athlete and a glutton.  There is no rhyme or reason why two people become friends other than they choose it.  That is why there is a mercy in Friendship love that is not in any other love.  Jesus chooses to call us friends, and that is pure mercy.

When we suffer, we often feel alone.  But there is a fellowship friendship among those who suffer.  When a person suffers, they can choose to be friends with another person or persons who suffer.  Thus, they are not alone, and their suffering becomes the building material of the bridge of their friendship.

Friendship love is the most merciful of the four loves because it is the least demanding of the love.  When we have Friendship love, we care –  not because we have to but because we want to.  In suffering, there is great friendship.  This is why Jesus’ death on the cross is the place where he calls and chooses us, proving his friendship to us.

Healing through the Sacrament of Marriage

Marriage is a Charism.  St Paul says “Each has their – gift one for marriage, one for virginity.” Marriage is a gift of the Spirit.

Someone might be married but are they living marriage in a charismatic way?  St Paul describes charisms as “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  By definition, marriage is oriented towards helping your spouse and children become holy, know Jesus and get to Heaven.

Jesus wants to pour His Holy Spirit on the man and woman.  Their humanity, their maleness and femaleness, is the matter of the sacrament, just as much as bread and wine are the matter for the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

In the marriage rite, the Bishop, Priest or Deacon in the Nuptial Blessing calls down the Holy Spirit on the couple by saying “Look now with favor on these your servants, joined together in Marriage, who ask to be strengthened by your blessing.  Send down on them the grace of the Holy Spirit and pour your love into their hearts, that they may remain faithful in their Marriage Covenant.”

This is asking the Father through Jesus to pour the Holy Spirit on the man and woman to make them the body and blood of Christ for each other. He asks that their marriage covenant may better symbolize Christ love for His Church.

Because marriage is a gift (charism) of the Holy Spirit, marriage is meant to be lived in the Holy Spirit, even in a charismatic way. Then, with the power of the Holy Spirit given to the couple, they have the power to radically love, forgive, and heal each other. Jesus wants all couples to tap into the power and super abundance of new wine given in the Sacrament of Marriage.

St. Therese and her little book!

I just finished reading the life of Saint Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. The specific book I read was called A Family of Saints: The Martins of Lisieux.  Both her parents offered up their entire life to God, and what was the fruit of that offering?   “5 perfect lilies” – five daughters who became religious sisters. They also offered up four young children who died early in life.

It was from such sacrificial parents that St. Therese learned her way of “offering up little suffering and writing them down in her little book.” St. Therese knew that it is only love that gives value to our sacrifice. God doesn’t look at how big that action is – God looks at the love that moves the action. St. Therese would say “picking up a pen for love of God has more value than a big action such as giving up your life without love.

With this in mind, we want to create a Silent Army where we can imitate St. Louis, St. Zelie, and St. Therese in recording the little sacrifices that come to us each day. If you would like to join our Silent Army, then write your little offering in the comment section below, for the intentions of vocations in the Arlington Diocese, or other intentions. Our offering of little thorns, when offered up, becomes a beautiful rose.

We are currently working on a way to formalize enrollment in the Silent Army, so stay tuned….

While the Diocese pays for our work at Inova Fairfax Hospital, we must rely on donations to expand our mission to reach the rest of the Diocese (and beyond). If you would like to help with the various costs involved in organizing a Silent Army (partly by developing and maintaining this website), then please consider donating to the Hospital Ministry at https://secure3.arlingtondiocese.org/Donate/Donate/Hospital_Ministry/Donate.aspx.