Being Anointed: Falling into Community

I went alone to Mass alone this morning – my hubby had to be somewhere else – and afterwards I was just sitting in the pew, trying to decide if I was being called to get anointed, because the month-long stiff neck, the two-week long headache and the coughing have been wearing me down.

The priest, a pal, walked by and said, “you look awful.”

I laughed and said “Do I? Well, I guess that’s my cue to ask to be anointed.”

My eyes were closed during the rite, but I was surprised to hear other voices responding, “Amen” to the prayers and blessing and I became conscious of the fact that all the post-Mass chatter among the choir members had ceased. When the Lord’s Prayer began, it sounded like scores of voices joining in.

The anointing was taking place in a “quiet” spot, near the tabernacle, and yet the musicians packing away their gear had noticed and stopped what they were doing. The neighborly chit-chatters lingering at the door had stopped chatting and moved back inside, they stood near the sanctuary. Families gathering for baptisms had stopped fussing and greeting; they all participated in the prayers and blessings of my anointing.

Most of them did not know me. None of them had any idea about my circumstances; they couldn’t – I don’t even know them, fully, yet – but without any visible or obvious prompting (except, perhaps the prompting of the Holy Spirit) the whole community of faith, represented by 40-50 people going about their business in the church, stopped and prayed as one for someone they did not know, for her good.

When I looked around, rather amazed, the priest said, “yes, we forget too easily that we’re a community of believers.”

I murmured a sort of general “thank you” and everyone once more got involved with whatever they’d been doing, and the moment was over – a descent of peace that made me think of the dove at Jesus’ baptism, or the dropping down of the dew of righteousness that Isaiah wrote of.

It was a potent moment. My headache is finally gone, the stiff neck is remains but is markedly better.

As I put on my coat, an acquaintance who had been part of all that walked by with a wink and a quick sign that she’d pray for me; my priest started naming all the different diseases he thought I should be checked for tomorrow and then turned to the next person who wanted his attention, and I walked away thinking about what that spontaneous communal prayer had felt like – and the humbling generosity of it – and was very moved. I was also thankful for the priest who – in his homily – had described his office not as that of shepherd, who is Christ, but as being “the shepherd’s dog, barking at and herding the sheep, in His service.”

Lots of sheep and lambs were in need of his notice, and he was fully on duty, going about the business of the flock, to help out the Shepherd. Nice. God bless all priests and sheepdogs.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pat_Patterson

    Just for a mad second I thought the video was going to be an organ solo of “The Surry with the Fringe on Top.”

    “Chicks and ducks and geese better hurry…”

  • DaveW

    What a nice story.

    I went through the right of acceptance 2 weeks ago, I’m a Catechumen now. Its been a long year to get to this spot.

  • Hantchu

    You should have a refuah shelema (a complete healing). I’m planning on going to the Western Wall tomorrow with my 11-year-old. I think we need to say some psalms prior to a date for clothes shopping. This may sound ridiculous, but everyone needs clothing, and I’d like both of us to remember that there are things more important than just looking good, like being good, and like remembering to pray for the needs of the whole world as though it all depended on us.

    Get well and feel strong, because it all depends on you too. You will be in my prayers.

    [Thank you so much. I know for certain that no one has ever prayed for me at the Wall - I'm thrilled and humbled that you will remember me there! Admin]

  • manchmedic

    Definitely will add you to the list of people I regularly pray for. The symptoms you describe – scary business. But I’m glad the headache is gone.

    Anointing of the Sick is such a powerful sacrament, and personal experience is an incredible thing… I had to have surgery to repair my left Achilles just over a month ago. The day before I went to see my parish priest (who happens, in fact, to be a Benedictine monk) and he heard my confession and anointed me. The only people present were him, me, and his Pastoral Associate. Amazing that there were only the three of us there, but it was incredible. No other words to describe it.

    Kind of interesting that he talked about “the Shepherd’s dog” in his homily. This afternoon I was watching an episode of a series that runs on The Military Channel – follows the Marines of “Alpha” Company of the 3rd Recon Battalion. Near the end of the episode the Company Gunnery Sergeant was talking about how “96% of people are sheep, and the rest are wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep dogs and wolves aren’t much different, but the wolves have no rules, and the sheep dogs know what the rules are.”

    And may God bless the Marines of 3rd Recon, as well.

  • Barbara

    I had to smile when I read “my priest started naming all the different diseases he thought I should be checked for tomorrow”.

    I would so wish to suggest just the right health thing for you, A. I know better.

    I will pray to St. Raphael to work through your providers to give you ease and healing. [Please pick good providers!]

  • DaveW

    Oh. Hope you get feeling better. ;)

  • Aunty Franny

    Well, after the way you fasted and prayed for the nation for so long, and after all the kind deeds of service you do through this blog (and, I’m guessing elsewhere), its about time you got some of that rain coming down from heaven. You’ve earned it. You just fell into a vat of love in the Communion of the Saints, only, some of the future saints were present and very attentive. Praise God.

    Happy Feast of Christ the King!

    May God heal you.


  • TheAnchoress

    Thanks all, for your prayers. Monday is a day for testing. We’ll see what’s going on.

  • Fr. Steve Leake

    Anchoress, I hope you are feeling better!? I am sure the sacrament will strengthen you to get through whatever is ailing you. This should put a smile on your face:

    The Celtic Thunder guys are really good and I love their version of Caledonia! Keep smiling and God bless!

  • Joe Odegaard

    Thank you for the story. There you see the assembling of one flock and one sheppard, eventually all humanity will be there.

  • Dante Explorer

    What a nice story, I’ve met so many wonderful servant priests. However I have to say ask why do people feel compelled to chat in church (especially before mass). On the rare occasions I attend a Tridentine mass, I never see that. Silence is such a gift,…sigh… I guess I’m asking too much.

  • Myssi

    You are in prayers today, A. I had a similar experience at church yesterday. It’s good to be a part of God’s people.
    In Christ, Myssi

  • Hantchu

    Dateline: Jerusalem–A glorious, sunny autumn day, the Kotel (Western Wall) Plaza filled with tourists and regulars. Lots of Russians and Frenchmen, some obviously Jewish, just as many obviously not. Religious high school girls on a field trip, IDF soldiers from a multitude of units for a group outing to the Holy City, Christian monastics and priests of every possible variety from the entrance to the Jaffa gate, through the Armenian Quarter, past the Hurva synagogue now in advanced renovation. At the Wall itself, if I had hoped for a quiet meditative morning, I should never have come on a sunny Monday; there were at least two bar mitzvah celebrations going on, one Ashkenazic with a wonderful klezmer clarinet, and one Afghan, with drums and something that sounded like a crumhorn. Women in slacks and hastily added scarves ululating from the womens’ section and passing around platters of dried fruits and almonds.

    I had come to the Wall today burdened down with tales of grief for friends and acquaintences, the names of a lot of people in need of healing, and I was greeted with a holy party, festive drums melting into the muezzin’s call, followed by church bells. (What fixed-time prayer loses in spontaeneity, it makes up for in regularity–we all follow the sun.) The Psalms, as always, go well with everything.

    May you and all the rest of us merit to hear the drums and the bells and revel in the glimmering sunlight.

  • graciegal77

    I’ve had chronic, difficult to control asthma for most of my life. At the young age of 44, (13 years ago) I was diagnosed with emphysema as a result. I’m fairly limited but go and do whatever I choose. I just walk slower and sometimes need the assistance of a walker.

    This past Spring, I contracted antibiotic resistant staph pneumonia. It had gone mis-diagnosed and I was in respiratory failure upon arrival to the hospital, was placed on a ventilator for 7 days, and was treated for a total of two weeks in the hospital. I was therefore weak upon discharge and could not even stand without assistance. I felt my recovery was extremely slow and it was proving difficult to recover my strength. I was finally able to walk a bit with a walker (it has a seat) but mostly I sat and my husband pushed me where we needed to go.

    After Mass one Sunday morning, I asked our parish priest for the Sacrament of the Sick. It was just my husband and myself. There was no one left in the sanctuary. So, I didn’t have the blessing of others praying for me. But, I can tell you that I felt enveloped and warmed by the Holy Spirit. It was a beautiful and transforming experience. My husband (a convert to Catholicism) felt it as well.

    I was given the desire to push myself physically and my strength returned quickly. Within two weeks, I was back to my myself. I still have emphysema and issues with asthma, but I’m blessed for having been anointed.

    My reason for commenting is to let all Catholic readers know that this sacrament is there for the asking. Please don’t hesistate, if you feel you could benefit. I’ve been ill many times (this was not my first time on a ventilator), but this was my first anointing. I’ll not hesitate to ask for it again.

  • dellbabe68

    Hope you’re feeling better. I have three members of my family going through similar circumstances (one diagnosed, but two in the hospital at the moment). It’s a hard time. But you’re in my prayers.
    I wish I had a priest who knew me well enough to be able to even be in a conversation! It’s not like it used to be, that’s for sure. Now by the time you get to know them, they have to move on to another parish .

  • jill e

    My only experience with anointing came shortly after I converted. I had “frozen shoulder” and had been going to therapy for weeks with little change. As a new Catholic, I was skeptical to say the least. I just kept thinking that “at least it couldn’t hurt.” It wasn’t an immediate miracle but within two weeks of the healing Mass, I could move my arm with a markedly improved range and the pain was nearly gone. Within a month, my arm was essentially back to normal. I can say without hesitation that I truly believe in the healing power of God that has been given to us through this sacrament.

  • Jeanette

    What a moving story! You know I’m praying for you too, A! Just get better.

  • gs

    My thoughts are with you.

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  • Jeanette

    Please pray for the family of Natalie Yokeley, a twelve year old girl who battled courageously spinal cancer for over the past 9+ months. She passed away at 10 PM last night and is now in the arms of Jesus. Pray for her family. Her grandparents are in our Sunday School class.

    Thank you.

    [She must have been in awful pain. Terrible for the family. I will keep them in my prayers. Also, please pray for Anthony M, who was hit by a train and has been seriously injured - for his wife and kids, too - admin]

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