Being the Church with the Sick in their Homes

1961947_637744056290613_1818545815_o   In addition to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that individual members of the community manage to perform, it would be a good idea if a parish every so often gave to the sick a celebration of the Eucharist in their homes, where those who suffer would truly experience being the living members of a great family that prays and loves. Their homes would visibly become for a moment a church, and they would experience joy and celebration surrounded by very many friends who would comfort them and be joyful with songs and prayers, not excluding at the end also a moment of conviviality and fraternal agape.

But in order to understand the profound meaning of this initiative, which is as appropriate as it has ever been, it is useful for a few moments to go over its genesis. Indeed, in order to value and encourage our charism even more, and to offer an opportunity to sick people who were impeded from taking part in the celebration of Holy Mass in parishes, Pope St. Pius X, on 26 July 1905, by a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, wrote, and I quote the text, as follows: ‘His Holiness, by very special predilection, grants to all the priests of the Order of St. Camillus the ability to celebrate Holy Mass in the rooms of the sick, for the relief of suffering and the good of souls. This privilege is limited to the Ministers of the Sick and is not extendable to others, and is understood as extended to other places such as isolation hospitals, public hospitals and nursing homes, using a portable altar, with the previous consent of the Ordinary of the place and attending to the utmost to the decorum and the decency of the place where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated’.

Milan was the first fortunate city to create and give an impulse to the spread of this privilege through the fervour of a Camillian, Father Mansueto Endrizzi, who with a true missionary spirit was the first to use a portable altar – on 30 October 1905. In the chronicles of the Order we read that ‘only God knows the immense good worked in souls by this privilege: souls distant from the Church returned to her after a celebration of the Mass near to their beds. It is estimated that during the first fifty years more than 300,000 Masses were celebrated in the homes of sick people, and this does not take into account the friends and relatives who were present and who tangibly felt the same joy that Zacchaeus felt when he welcomed Jesus into his home.

12705224_10206796137517083_6729557839421845794_n   After a number of decades, however, the Holy Spirit inspired the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to extend this privilege to all the priests of the world. Indeed, by the reform of the liturgy passed by the Council, the privilege limited to the Camillians was extended to all Cardinals, bishops and priests. Thus it was that the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, in its instruction of 15 May 1969, entitled  ‘Actio Pastoralis de missis pro Coetibus particularibus’, at number 2 laid down that ‘amongst the special groups for whom it is allowed to celebrate the Eucharist, one can list family relatives gathered round sick or elderly people who cannot leave their homes and who otherwise would never take part in a celebration of the Eucharist; with them are associated also neighbours and those who take care of elderly or sick people’. As one can observe, the principal reason for this concession was specifically to offer to sick people or elderly people who could not leave their homes the possibility and the joy of being every to take part every so often in a celebration of the Eucharist.

Given this, I think that all parish priests, but above all else those who are Camillians and have taken the vow to assist the sick, have a very good opportunity to help the sick in their homes by periodically planning a celebration of Holy Mass in their habitations. The joy of these sick people visited by Christ will inevitably flow all over them, restoring to them serenity and health, the strength and the courage to resist the existential crises that afflict above all the gravely ill. But above all else they will not feel alone and abandoned by the Christian community as well.