Just when you least expect it…
My husband’s recovery was going quite well, we thought, and then he ended up at the ER again on Wednesday night. He hadn’t had any real severe symptoms – just a general feeling of low energy for a couple of days, and a little discomfort that he attributed to the healing process. But on Wednesday he kept going hot and cold, and when he finally took his temperature, it was 101 degrees. He called the surgeon, who suggested he go to the clinic and get checked out.
They did urine and blood tests, and he came home to await the blood results. His white cell count was elevated, and they told him to go to the ER. So off we went, where we did a lot of waiting till they finally did a CT scan. The scan showed an abscess where the small intestine meets the colon…or something like that. The doctor reading the scan said there was a perforation, but my husband’s surgeon discounted that, as he’d looked at it up close a personal during the surgery 5 weeks ago.
The plan was to stick a needle in and drain the abscess under the guidance of the CT machine; but that required a hospital with more technological resources than our rural hospital has. So my husband was transported to Boise, ID, about a two-hour drive away. The next morning, the procedure to drain the abscess was successful; my husband’s temperature returned to normal; and his white blood cell count has been steadily dropping. There are a couple of other tests the doctors want to do, though, so he has to stay in Boise; hopefully he’ll come home Sunday night or Monday morning.
I went to see him on Thursday, and he looked good, felt good, and was hoping they would let him eat real food soon (they did).
But while I was there, a woman came in and introduced herself as Mary, and said she was a "eucharistic minister" (which of course is the wrong term anyway! She is an “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion"). She asked my husband if he wanted to receive Holy Communion. I cringed inside, and I wonder if it showed on the outside as well! But she was looking at my husband, not me.
He said he had just eaten, and so he didn’t want to receive; and she started to tell him that it was okay, that he was dispensed from the fast because of being hospitalized. But wasn’t willing for this “event” to take place in my presence, so I said to my husband, “But do you want to receive from…uh…not-a-priest?” And then he seemed to remember that I had said I had contacted a priest and asked him to visit; and so my husband told Mary the Eucharistic Minister no thanks, he thought a priest was coming to see him and that he would receive Holy Communion from him. We did thank her for coming, though, and I said to my husband as she was leaving, "Well, at least that's more than we ever got at home!" At our local hospital, no one contacted my husband from the Church. Of course, if I had asked, the priest would have come, I have no doubt. But I think it used to be that the priest or someone at the office would check for Catholic patients, and someone would make a visit and ask about the spiritual needs of the Catholic patients. It is a Catholic hospital, after all. For what that’s worth these days.
Looking back on it, I think having a lay person show up to offer Holy Communion is a horrible practice; many people will say "yes" out of peer pressure, not wanting to look like a bad Catholic; and many will receive unworthily. Not to mention the fact of receiving from a lay person who also is a woman! Even a Novus Ordo deacon does not have his hands consecrated to handle the Holy Eucharist! Having been around the extraordinary form of the Mass as much as I have, I’ve become very sensitive to the hands issue. Even in the Novus Ordo, it really bothers me to see the priest not keeping his thumb and forefinger together after he consecrates the Host; that practice is not require in the NO, but why not?! It is still a consecrated Host! It is still Really and Truly Jesus! The same dangers of profanation apply. Etc.
In the case of a lay person coming to administer Holy Communion, there is not only the chance that the Eucharist will be received unworthily; it seems to me that the Eucharist is also being offered unworthily – being handled by unconsecrated hands.
Besides that, what about deacons?! It is a task for deacons to bring communion to the sick. Of course, in the NO, the deacon’s hands are not consecrated, but still. Today when I was talking to my husband on the phone, I heard someone come into his room, and he paused to see what was needed. I heard a female voice explain that she was a “Eucharistic minister” and ask if he wanted to receive Communion. Another woman! Aaargh. He declined again. Where are the deacons?
It seems to me, a better practice would be for a priest to show up and ask people in the hospital if they want him to hear their confession! I would think that hospital patients might be a bit more inclined to be thinking about their ultimate end, and they might therefore be more inclined to do something that would help them get to their desired destination!
Well, that is the state of the Church, I guess. It does make me sad, though.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.