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Tag Archives: terminal illness

MY AUNT IS NEARING THE END OF HER LIFE, BUT STILL CONSCIOUS – WOULD IT FRIGHTEN HER TO CALL THE PRIEST FOR THE LAST RITES?

Question: My aunt is nearing the end of her life but is still conscious and enjoying the company of her family. Unfortunately, some of her relatives think that it would frighten her to call the priest for the last rites, though she has been a devout Catholic all her life.

Answer by Fr Tim: The inaccurate term ‘last rites’ causes unnecessary worries. Priests regularly visit people in hospital to give Holy Communion and to minister the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. When a person begins to approach the end of life through illness, the time has come to receive the sacrament of anointing.

The Church insists that it is not necessary to leave this to the last minute because the sick person may receive great consolation and strength from the sacrament as their death approaches, even if this is gradually over a period of time. As a devout Catholic, your aunt would certainly want to receive the sacraments of anointing and would greatly benefit from the opportunity to receive the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion while she is still conscious and before she has to spend more of the time under sedation or powerful pain-relieving drugs.

Relatives who have little or no faith often mistakenly think that a sick person will be frightened by the attendance of a priest. It is often their own fear that is in play, since the priest reminds them of the eternal truths which they have tried to ignore, and prefer not to talk about.

The visit of a priest can help to create a greater honesty in communication as death approaches, so that there is not a conspiracy of silence in which your dying aunt cannot speak of her own mortality because of the frailty of her relatives in discussing such things. The visit of a priest can gently help her relatives to overcome such a barrier.

The prayers of the sacrament of anointing are entirely suitable for the time when death is approaching, but not immediately imminent. When death is near, the Apostolic Blessing, with the plenary indulgence and the Commendation of the Dying, are among the most beautiful prayers in the treasury of the Church.”

– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the Catholic Herald newspaper, issue November 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link)

 

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CAN A PERSON BE CURED AT LOURDES IF SHE HAS NO FAITH?

Question: Can a person be cured at Lourdes if she has no faith?

Answer: We cannot place bounds or limits on what Our Lady will or will not do. It is her privilege to intercede for and cure a person who has no faith, just as she intercedes for all those who believe in her son Jesus Christ and who, though weak and sinful, persevere in trying to live according to the teaching of Christ and his Church.”

– This article was published in St Martin Magazine’s feature “Question Box”; issue June 2015. For subscriptions please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link)

 

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“I COUNT ON NOT BEING IDLE IN HEAVEN”

“St Therese’s activity on behalf of the Missions has not ended with her death. Her letters to her Brother Missionaries throb with the expectancy of how far more effective she will be on their behalf in Heaven.

If I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose

‘I count on not being idle in Heaven, for it is my wish to continue to work for the Church, and for souls. I ask this grace from God and I am certain He will grant it. So you see, if I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose.

I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child

‘When I myself have reached the port I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child well aware of its father’s love and of his vigilance in the hours of danger.

Brother, I am so happy to die – because, far more than on earth, I shall help the souls I hold dear. O what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall not die – I do but enter into life and whatsoever I cannot tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven.’

What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus

But more fully still she writes: ‘What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus, the hope that I may at last love Him as I have so longed to love Him, and the thought that I shall bring a multitude of souls to love Him, who will bless Him for all eternity. Brother, you will not have time to send me the list of things I can do for you in Heaven, but I guess them; and in any case you will have but to whisper them and I shall hear you and faithfully bear your messages to Our Lord, to our Immaculate Mother, to the Angels and the Saints you love.’

Till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’

Her work for the Missions still continues, and there is every evidence that it will continue, as she prophesied it would, until the end of time.

‘I feel that my mission is about to begin – to make others love God as I love Him – to teach souls my Little Way. I will spend my Heaven in doing good on earth. This is not impossible, for the Angels keep watch over us while they enjoy the Beatific Vision. No, there can be no rest for me till the end of the world – till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’ Then shall I take my rest, then shall I be able to rejoice because the number of the elect will be complete.’

These striking words were spoken during her last illness, 17 July 1897, less than three months before she died. Sure of the unfailing support of our Saint, whom Our Lord through His Church has specially given us as our Patroness in these difficult times, the Church in the Mission Field can look forward with quiet confidence to the days that lie ahead.”

– From “The Little Way Association” booklet, Issue No 94 – Little Way Association, London. Internet contact: http://www.littlewayassociation.com (external link)

 

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“MAY THE GOD OF PEACE MAKE US PERFECT AND HOLY” – INTERCESSIONS

God dwells with the crushed and dejected in spirit. For them, let us pray:

R. Lord, hear the cry of the poor.

For those who suffer chronic illness:
– grant them patient endurance. (R.)

For those who suffer mental or emotional illness:
– grant them peace of mind. (R.)

For those who suffer terminal illness:
– grant them hope as they approach you. (R.)

For all who love and care for the sick:
– grant them the reward of your love. (R.)

(Personal intentions)

Our Father…

May the God of peace make us perfect and holy; and may we all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul, and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (c.f. 1 Th 5:23)

 

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“SENSE AND NONSENSE ON ‘ASSISTED DYING'”

“Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales
Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship

SENSE AND NONSENSE ON ‘ASSISTED DYING’

‘Assisted dying’ is often in the news. There is a Private Member’s bill before Parliament to try to legalise it. But just what is ‘assisted dying’? What does the law say about it? What do doctors have to say about it? What does the Church say about it and what are the problems with it?

WHAT EXACTLY IS ‘ASSISTED DYING’?

‘Assisted dying’ really means assisting someone to commit suicide. It is the language used by those who want to change the law to legalise assisted suicide. A law permitting ‘assisted dying’ would licence doctors to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.

SHOULDN’T EVERYONE HAVE THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHEN AND HOW THEY DIE?

An ‘assisted dying’ law could easily put vulnerable people at risk. There are real concerns that there is scope for such a law to be abused. For example, some terminally ill people might feel under pressure to end their lives, either from others or from feeling that they should remove a care or financial burden from their families. Others might wish to do so as a result of depression, a common feature of terminal illness. A ‘right to die’ could become a ‘duty to die’.

WHY SHOULD DYING PEOPLE BE FORCED TO STAY ALIVE AND SUFFER?

End-of-life care in Britain has advanced hugely since the days when death was commonly associated with pain and suffering. An international survey by ‘The Economist’ in 2010 ranked Britain top among 40 nations, including the United States, for quality of end-of-life care. What is needed is to ensure that everyone has access to the best palliative care available. In contrast, assisted suicide is a counsel of despair.

WHAT’S THE LAW ON THIS NOW?

It’s against the law to encourage or assist another person’s suicide. This reflects a widely-held view that, while people who attempt suicide should be treated with compassion, helping someone to commit suicide is not something that should be encouraged. Indeed, as a society we go to great lengths to prevent suicides.

WHAT DOES THE CHURCH SAY ABOUT ASSISTING SUICIDE?

In a message addressed to Catholics in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, Pope Francis said, ‘Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect’. The Church supports high quality care for the dying and protection for the weak and vulnerable. The Church teaches that life is a gift from God (John 10:10) and that suicide is the ultimate inability to accept the gift of life. Although attempting suicide should be treated with compassion rather than with blame, suicide should never be encouraged or promoted. Moreover the Church teaches that deliberately ending or helping to end someone else’s life, even if that person may have requested it, is wrong. Those who take someone else’s life take to themselves the power of life and death, which ultimately belongs to God.

WHAT DOES THE MEDICAL PROFESSION HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT?

The BMA and the Royal Colleges of Physicians, General Practitioners and Surgeons are opposed to legalising physician-assisted suicide. And most doctors regard it as a proper part of clinical practice – they are all too well aware from experience that dying patients can be vulnerable.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH CHANGING THE LAW?

There are powerful practical reasons why the law shouldn’t be changed. It’s almost impossible to be sure that a request for assisted suicide from someone who is terminally ill reflects a clear and settled wish that has not been influenced by depression or pressure of one sort or another. Changing the law might give a very small number of strong-minded people what they want but it could easily put much larger numbers of vulnerable people at risk of harm.

WOULDN’T THERE BE SAFEGUARDS IN ANY LEGALISED SYSTEM?

Yes, but what safeguards and how effective would they be? In the tiny number of other countries where assisted suicide has been legalised there is emerging evidence that the safeguards don’t work. For instance, some laws seek to restrict access suicide to terminally ill people who are in full possession of all their faculties and are acting freely. But prognosis of terminal illness is fraught with difficulty: terminally ill people often live for much longer than the predictions they are given when they are diagnosed – occasionally, they even recover. And the evidence from overseas shows that doctors have sometimes failed to spot clinical depression among those who have been supplied with lethal drugs to end their lives.

IF I CAN END MY LIFE BY REFUSING TREATMENT, WHY CAN’T I HAVE MEDICAL HELP TO END IT?

Everyone has the legal right to refuse treatment, but patients who refuse treatment rarely do so in order to end their lives: they do it because they are finding the treatment burdensome and they want to let nature take its course. There’s a world of a difference, in medical ethics and in law, between accepting that death can’t be prevented and seeking assistance to end your own life.

DON’T DOCTORS SOMETIMES HASTEN PATIENTS’ DEATHS UNDER THE GUISE OF PAIN RELIEF?

These days pain relief is a sophisticated science. When analgesics are properly prescribed and administered, there is no risk to the patient’s life. Research has shown that in Britain illegal action of this kind by doctors is rare or non-existent.

BRITISH PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SWITZERLAND TO GET HELP WITH SUICIDE. WHY SHOULD THEY NOT BE ABLE TO GET THAT HELP HERE?

Though every ‘Swiss suicide’ makes headlines, only around 1 in 25,000 deaths of Britons in the last 10 years has taken this form. The fact that a very small number of British people choose to seek assisted suicide in another country doesn’t mean we should legalise the practice here. We make our own laws, and the legal protection of the weak and vulnerable is a fundamental duty of the state and of society.

For a PDF of this note, or to find out more about the moral, ethical and practical dangers of legislation go to: http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/assisted-suicide-information
– The above was copied from a flyer distributed in a London parish, dated February 2014.

 

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“PARTING THE FIBRES OF MY BEING” – UNSHAKEABLE HOPE IN TIMES OF SERIOUS ILLNESS AND DURING BODILY DEATH

GOD’S LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH AND SO WE CAN TRUST HIM ABSOLUTELY: JESUS REALLY HAS PREPARED A PLACE FOR US (John 14).

“In words that chill one to the bone the psalmist lays bare the anguish of someone facing death, trapped by fear at the horror of that final severance from life. ‘I am numbered by those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength… You have plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into the dark abyss… with all your billows you overwhelm me… I am imprisoned, I cannot escape… Your terrors have cut me off… Companion and neighbour you have taken from me; my only friend is darkness’ (Psalm 88).

THE FINALITY OF BODILY DEATH

The psalmist is not alone in his fear of death, in experiencing the desolation it brings, the awful finality of separation. That precious, lovely body, that unique personality is no more – is lifeless clay. Gone now, and forever. No one will ever, ever fill that gap left when those we love die.

A HOLY DEATH

‘Will Jesus be there? Will he accept me or reject me?’ Teilhard de Chardin wrote in his retreat notebook in the years before he died. That great Jesuit priest, scientist, mystic who in the course of his life wrote such profound words on Christ, was no stranger to doubt. And who can tell the anguish St Therese of Lisieux experienced behind her beautiful smile as she endured inexpressible bodily pain and annihilating darkness of spirit on her deathbed? Her community hoped she would have a ‘holy’ death, serene, edifying for all. Not the dreadful rattling tubercular cough, the unbearable suffering laying her waste. But, Therese pointed to Jesus. How did he die? ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mk 15:34).

JESUS REALLY HAS PREPARED A PLACE FOR US

For her, as for all who believe, Jesus is the touchstone. When we die in faith we share in his death, in his cry from the Cross, in his terrifying aloneness. When we believe in him, no matter how we ‘rage against the dying of the light’, no matter how racked by doubt, we will be brought, in ways we cannot understand, to share in his resurrection. We have his word for it.

‘SISTER DEATH’

Death is dreadful but in its darkness, in our grief and loss, we will find a seed of hope. We do not know what comes after, but we can believe – even if we cannot feel it – that God’s love is stronger than death and so we can trust him absolutely: Jesus really has prepared a place for us (Jn 14).

‘O GOD, GRANT THAT I MAY UNDERSTAND…’

‘When the sign of age begin to mark my body – and still more when they touch my mind -; when the illness that is to diminish me or carry me off, strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you – provided only my faith is strong enough – who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.’ (Teilhard de Chardin, SJ).”
– This article was published in “Far East”, Magazine of the Columban Missionaries, issue November 2013. For subscriptions, vocation information/enquiries and donations please visit http://www.columbans.co.uk (external link) or http://www.columbansisters.org (external link).

 
 

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