Thanks for all your great work. I always enjoy what you write. You are doing a great service to the church by treating people with kindness and gentleness. You make me a better priest.
I want to ask you about caring for parents of babies who are still-born, sudden infant death and pre-term miscarriages – non-viable fetuses as the professionals call them.
I have a hospital nearby. I get called in to see a couple. I don’t know the circumstance. I need a book, a stole and holy water. The trouble is the only book I have available to me is the study edition of the funeral liturgy. I mutter prayers and platitudes, stay silent a lot and wish there was something more. Frequently I struggle with my emotions.
Could you produce a text for use in such circumstances? Something small to fit in a pocket. Something that doesn’t have “funeral” written on it. Something that fits all needs.
Maybe you could ask colleagues for some exemplars of best practice. Something on your website might be a start.
I’m only 30 years ordained so I’m a beginner.
A: Thanks for your comments about my blog. The cases you describe are heart-breaking. Maybe you’ve thought of this, but the Rite of Pastoral Care of the Sick has a short chapter called, “Prayers for the Dead.” It offers just a few prayers and biblical passages, and it usually seems enough. It’s a book with “Pastoral Care” on the cover, so it would present a better image.
I think it’s common for a priest to wonder afterward if he said the right words, and we must strive to find them. But just walking through the door is the first sign of your love. You cared enough to drop what you were doing, go there, and accompany those parents on this most difficult day.