His Mercy Endures Forever
In the last 6 months I have on two occasions been told that when a Catholic is gravely ill or near death they should ask for a Priest to administer the Apostolic Pardon (formerly called Apostolic Blessing) as part of the Anointing of the Sick (formerly called Extreme Unction). During a Homily, a Priest strongly recommended that we put in our Living Will or whatever document or instructions we leave specifying what we want done if we are very ill, that we want a Priest to NOT ONLY Anoint us but also administer the Apostolic Pardon.
If you are able to recite a final Confession you should but there may be cicumstances where you are incapable of speech.
In my Confirmation class a few weeks ago, Father mentioned the Apostolic Pardon and what a great gift that it is to receive forgiveness for all your sins at the moment of your death.
I did not think this was such a gift.
Why? Because my heart was hard and Satan ran right in there.
I remembered thinking: Wait a minute. So, some slacker "Catholic" who has completely turned their back on the Church for most, if not all, of their life, has not been to Confession in 40 years, etc. gets a "free pass"? Why should I BOTHER living a Christian life when I can just ask for a Priest at my final moments?
Mother Mary must have stepped in and reminded me that those that rely upon the Apostolic Pardon are possibly going to be doing a lot more time in Purgatory then I will. In any case, both of us are completely dependent upon His Mercy. The big sinner could go straight to the Beautific Vision while I'm howling in Hell for being so judgmental.
Plus, don't we, who are truly faithful, ask the Lord and/or His Mother to be with us in our final moments on a regular basis? Whether it's via the Sacred Heart Devotion or the Hail Mary. How do we know that Catholics that don't bother with either are going to be rewarded with access to a Priest in their final hour?
How likely is it that the loved ones of a fallen away Catholic are going to have the slightest clue that they would even WANT a priest? Or, that said Catholic would have specified such in their final instructions?
Remember the "lost" trilogy's of Luke's Gospel: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son? WE are the lost things, the Lord is the one rejoicing when we return.
We can use the Sacrament of Confession as many times and as often as we need to and EVERY TIME there is the Lord's forgiveness. Amazing isn't it?
We are all members of The Body. We need to pray for all of our members-especially the seperated ones.
I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. --Luke 15:7
Through my ignorance and repudiation of all the Faith taught, I did not arrange for either my brother or my mother to receive regular visits from a priest, Communion, final Anointing or the Apostolic Pardon.
I can only pray for God's Mercy upon them and I do so constantly. I can also only pray for God's Mercy upon ME for failing them.
An optional conclusion to the Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitants is:
Priest: Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good
Penitant: His mercy endures forever
Priest: The Lord has freed you from your sins. Go in peace.
I have only had a Priest use the optional conclusion ONCE and that was a few weeks ago when I went to confess that I had encouraged some friends to abort their children. I blogged about it here. When I heard those words and had to say: "His mercy endures forever" I almost burst into tears. As it was, I could barely get up to leave the Confessional. On a day when I most needed His Mercy, there it was. How much better will His Mercy be at the hour of our death?
Mercy for EVERYONE, not just me. It is selfish of me to expect to keep all the Lord's Mercy for myself.
Further information on the Apostolic Pardon:
Q. Should priests bestow the Apostolic Blessing when they administer the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?
A. Yes, the priest should bestow what in the pre-Vatican II liturgy was called the Apostolic Blessing but is now called the Apostolic Pardon. The present liturgy for the pastoral care of the sick declares, "At the Conclusion of the sacrament of penance or the penitential rite, the priest may give the Apostolic Pardon for the dying, using one of the following:
A. Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy. R. Amen.
B. By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit. R. Amen."
You will notice that the ritual says the priest "may give the Apostolic Pardon." I believe this means that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the priest should give what we may still call the Apostolic Blessing.
== Ask Fr. Hardon by Fr. John Hardon S.J.