On Saturday November 9th, 2019, I attended a Mass for the deceased members of The Knights of St Columba at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. I noticed at the Mass that the Provincial Chaplain Fr Howard was present at the altar concelebrating with the then Vicar General Monsignor Timothy Menezes.
In 1999 my son was the victim of a motor car accident and was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham with a severe head injury. Due to the grave nature of the injury I asked the Catholic Chaplain at the QE Hospital, who was Fr Howard, to administer the Sacrament of the Sick to him. Fr Howard gave him the Last Rites with great dignity which was a comfort and solace to everyone around the bedside.
During this very difficult time I prayed to the now St Josemaria Escriva, to intervene on my behalf to ask for the human strength to accept ‘the will of the Lord’. I would like to quote from the Saint’s book, ‘The Way’, p.142 re:582. ‘How beautiful is our Catholic Faith, it provides a solution for our anxieties, calms our minds and fills our hearts with hope’. These words, I believe, give everyone assurance on our life’s journey of faith.
The Sacrament of the Sick gives strength, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with a serious illness. This assistance from the Lord by the Power of the Holy Spirit brings healing of the soul, and also to their body, if such is God’s will. My son did make a miraculous recovery which I shall continually thank the Lord, for showing us his mercy.
The Sacrament of the Sick is given to those who are seriously ill by anointing them on the forehead and hands with blessed oil saying only once, ‘Through this anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.’
A particular gift of the Holy Spirit and a major grace of this sacrament is the strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against temptations of the evil one, and the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death. The assistance from the Lord by the power of His Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to the healing of the soul and body, if God wills it. Furthermore, if the person has committed sins they will be forgiven. By sharing my spiritual story with others I would like to mention that I now understand the wisdom of Jesus in instituting the Sacrament of the Sick to help us all on our journey of faith.
One really needs to recall the faith of St Peter, who walked on water believing in the Lord, when he started to sink (Matthew 14:28-33). Sometimes during our lives, we think the Lord has forgotten us, but he has not. He is still with us even in our darkest hour helping us in ways we do not comprehend. As humans let us try not to think in a human materialistic manner, but trust in the goodness of the Father who knows what is best for us. He is the Father in whom we should trust on our journey of faith.
(St Josemaria Escriva de Balageur y Albas was born in Spain 1902 and died in Rome in 1975. In 1928 he founded Opus Dei. The book he wrote ‘The Way’ aims to encourage people to love God and live by God.