To clarify: As of now, priests are still available for Last Rites in general at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
However, the hospital is not permitting anyone to enter the rooms of patients suffering from COVID-19, not even family members. I imagine this is the same situation at many hospitals. This is presenting lots of questions regarding pastoral care for end-of-life. Some catechesis could be helpful.
The priest must be in the presence of the sick person in order to administer Last Rites. It cannot be administered over the phone or from the hallway. Therefore, those dying from COVID are now in a situation where they find themselves deprived of the ordinary sacramental graces of Last Rites.
Although Last Rites are the Church’s means of tending to the dying under ordinary circumstances, these are not ordinary circumstances. These are unusual and unprecedented circumstances.
In this situation, where ordinary pastoral care is not available for COVID patients, it is still possible to obtain the graces ordinarily provided in Last Rites. But we need to form an internal disposition to desire these graces. That means that we should be fully repentant for our sins, and completely confident in Jesus’ love and mercy. God knows that the sacraments are being restricted right now for public health reasons, but that if they were available, we would have done our best to receive them. We want to make a sincere Confession, we want to receive Holy Communion, and we want to receive Last Rites. Nevertheless, because of things outside our control, we sometimes cannot receive these things in the normal way. That does not stop God from giving us all the graces of these sacraments according to our desire for them. But we need to be the ones to stir up our desire for them spiritually: that means total repentance of sin, and total confidence in God’s mercy. It helps to make acts of contrition, and acts of faith, hope, and love (below).
The cross that you are given is the cross on which you will be saved. Embrace your cross from the heart as Jesus embraced His! We priests are deeply saddened by our inability to minister to some patients in the ordinary way. We are praying that things return to normal. Pray that they return to normal soon!
God bless you!
Fr. Michael DeSaye
Act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. And I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments. But most of all, because they have offended Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love, I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.
Simple Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love:
Jesus, I believe in you.
Jesus, I hope in you.
Jesus, I love you.
I offer my life to you, and the end of my life. Amen.