Healing sacrament

Father Paul Magnano makes the sign of the cross with oil on Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett’s forehead. Photo: Patti Fersch Father Paul Magnano makes the sign of the cross with oil on Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett’s forehead. Photo: Patti Fersch

Archbishop Emeritus Brunett joins communal anointing of the sick

By Janet Cleaveland

As light streamed through stained-glass windows at Christ our Hope Church on the second Sunday of Lent, parishioners experiencing illness and suffering received the healing touch of Christ in a very public way.

Right after his homily, Father Paul Magnano, pastor of the downtown Seattle parish, administered the anointing of the sick, a sacrament intended to unite those who are suffering more closely with the passion of Christ.

Among the 25 or so parishioners anointed was Archbishop Emeritus Alexander J. Brunett, who has a special tie to Christ Our Hope. It is among the last parishes he created in the archdiocese, and he was there in August 2010 to bless the altar and walls with oil.

Recovering from a stroke he suffered six months ago, the archbishop is using a wheelchair and working hard at physical therapy, Father Magnano said. The Christ Our Hope community embraced the archbishop with sustained applause and tears as Father Magnano welcomed him — “founding pastor to founding archbishop.”

The communal anointing is “always a moving experience, first for the people celebrating that sacrament but also for any priest who has the privilege of presiding,” Father Magnano said. “What moves me is how intense the people are in their experience of that sacrament. They see deep down inside of themselves, and they’re often in tears.”

The anointing of the sick is available to anyone who is seriously or chronically ill. It may be celebrated before someone has surgery, and it may be repeated if a patient recovers and then becomes ill again.

In many parishes, including St. Charles Borromeo in Tacoma, the communal rite is offered at least twice a year, commonly during Lent and Advent, said Kim Seevers, pastoral assistant for the sick and homebound at St. Charles.

“The sacrament provides for some sort of healing, whether it be to heal the body, soul and spirit of the person, or to enhance God’s healing power working through the hands and hearts of the medical professionals,” Seevers wrote in an email.

The rite is more often celebrated in a home or hospital setting. In his 47 years as a priest, Father Magnano has seen how intense those individual experiences of the sacrament can be. “I’ve seen people opening their eyes, smiling or joining in with the Lord’s Prayer, and then, a few minutes after that, dying,” he said. “Often it seems they’ve been waiting for family and priest.”

During the recent communal rite at Christ Our Hope, those desiring to be anointed were invited to gather near the altar, with the community around them on three sides, said Chuck Middendorf, the parish’s volunteer liturgist.

After laying his hands on the sick, Father Magnano anointed each person’s hands and forehead with oil. “The part of the community is to pray for everyone who is in need of help and prayers,” Middendorf said.

On that Sunday, Archbishop Brunett came forward to be anointed, just like everyone else, Father Magnano said, “as a Catholic among Catholics.”

For more information about the anointing of the sick, visit St. Charles Borromeo Parish’s website, http://parish.stcharlesb.org/worship/anointing-of-the-sick.

March 25, 2014