By Paul McKibben
Fr. George “Chip” Hines has experienced the power of Christ’s healing from the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick as both a priest and a recipient of it.
“This is a grace that I’m receiving, and we cooperate with grace,” said Fr. Hines, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and a Catholic writer and broadcaster. “The person that’s awake, that’s lucid for some-thing like that, I think they understand that. This is a grace-filled moment, and lets us cooperate with grace. It gave me a sense [as a recipient] that if something were to go wrong … God was going to take care of me. That I was going to be OK from the spiritual side of things.”
Fr. Hines said that the vast majority of patients he visits for anointing are actively dying. Some of these people are somewhat lucid. “When they see the [priest’s] collar, and you’ve explained to them what you’re going to do, you can sense the peace that’s there because the tension dissipates. They physically loosen up a little bit.”
Instead of speaking, people might use gestures as ways of communicating with the priest.
“People who are really sick and dying will hold on and stay alive until the priest can get there, and then shortly thereafter, you always hear a relative saying something like, ‘Ten minutes after you left, Father, my dad died.’ It’s a relief. It’s a willingness to go at that point because there’s a sense of safety.”
The peace is from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who Fr. Hines said, “work in concert and God offers to people that peace. … People understand that Jesus died for them.” The priest, especially in a sacrament, is acting in persona Christi, a Latin phrase meaning “in the person of Christ.”
“It’s the person recognizing Christ in the priest,” Fr. Hines explained.
During a medical leave of absence, Fr. Hines received the sacrament three times. He said each time, while he didn’t feel physically better, it did help him mentally and spiritually.
The hardest times for Fr. Hines were when he was hospitalized and confined to a room. In his case, doctors were almost certain his physical ailments were going to heal. But mentally he struggled with the lengthy downtime.
Before receiving the sacrament, he found himself being lax in his devotional life. Feeling mentally drained and not feeling up to doing any activity, he gave himself excuses to not pray.
“It was tough,” he said. “It was not easy.”
The sacrament provided him with the spiritual kick he needed to resume a robust prayer life.
“As humans, we get lazy, and I was not immune to that laziness,” he said. “After a while, you get to the point where you think, is this working? Is God listening to me? And those questions arose in my head as well. There were days where I was seriously concerned that God was sort of tuning me out.”
MINISTERING THE SACRAMENT
As a priest, Fr. Hines has anointed many people, including those in emergencies.
“Those are very difficult situations because the doctors are trying to do their job, and sometimes they can make you feel like you’re in the way,” he said.
At his last assignment, the parish was near a hospital with a trauma center that treated people who sustained injuries from automobile accidents that happened on a major highway. Fr. Hines would put on a protective gown and mask and see the patient.
“It really is a stressful situation,” he said. “You do your best to get out of the [doctors’ and nurses’] way, do what you need to do, and then step back and let the doctors and nurses do their jobs.”
Having the priest there provides com-fort for families, and for the doctors and nurses, especially if those health care providers are Catholic.
“I think it helps them to understand that what [priests] do is real,” Fr. Hines said. “It’s not hocus-pocus. It’s real, and we’re there for [the patient’s] soul; they’re there for the body.”
What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say?
Anointing of the Sick is covered in paragraphs 1499–1532 of the Catechism.
– This sacred anointing of the sick was instituted by Christ our Lord as a true and proper sacrament of the New Testament. It is alluded to indeed by Mark, but is recommended to the faithful and promulgated by James the apostle and brother of theLord. (CCC, 1511)
– 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, 1515)
– The celebration of the Anointing of theSick consists essentially in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick person(in the Roman Rite) or of other parts of the body (in the Eastern rite), the anointing be-ing accompanied by the liturgical prayer of the celebrant asking for the special grace of this sacrament. (CCC, 1531)
SPIRITUAL HELP DURING SICKNESS
Fr. Hines offers the following tips fort hose who need spiritual healing because of illness.
Reach out to friends
When he was ill, Fr. Hines contacted his friends who were priests. Those priests would anoint him or just provide him with a pep talk. They would tell him not to stop praying or stop living his life just because he was unable to do certain activities or tasks.
Receive God’s forgiveness
Once a priest friend visited Fr. Hines when he was especially down and told him strongly that he needed to resume his prayer life. He also received the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, another form of healing that Christ provides. The priest can offer confession to a person who is being anointed. Fr. Hines said most people do receive the Sacrament of Penance while receiving Anointing of the Sick.
Contact your priest
For those who are homebound, Fr. Hines said one should invite their priests to their home. “They may not know that you’re suffering through this because they’re not necessarily your best pal. They need to know,” he said. “You need to contact them. Tell them what’s going on.” Priests are not bothered by making such visits.“People need to see their priests,” he said. “And the fact that priests are willing to do it is very important for people to know.” Visiting the sick is a blessing for the person who is ill and for the priest who will “bring Christ to somebody who needs Christ at that moment,” he said.
Pray to the saints
Fr. Hines loves St. Luke the Evangelist, the patron saint of doctors and surgeons. “He was a physician. He knows the sick. I pray to St. Luke every day,” Fr .Hines said. Sometimes when Fr. Hines is praying for a specific person, he prays to a blessed who needs a miracle for their canonization. “I pray to that blessed every day, hoping and praying for that miracle for both of them so one can move on to sainthood and one can maybe get a cure,” he said.
To learn more:
“Anointing of the Sick: Joined to Christ,Witnesses of Hope and Healing,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2013, CDmag.net/2JPutya
“Eligibility for Sacrament of the Sick,” by Fr. Kenneth Doyle, The Boston Pilot, Oct. 2, 2019 CDmag.net/2VdO6VL
“Souls Reaching for Christ — Anointing of the Sick,” by Fr. George “Chip” Hines ,Catechist, February 2020 issue, CDmag.net/2UTWAT3
“Are Anointing of the Sick and last rites the same?” by Fr. Hugh Vincent Dyer, OP, page 35 of this issue of Catholic Digest