Sermon for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost – August 19, 2012 by Right Reverend Monsignor Patrick Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
On my home from here, there’s this what looks like a pharmacy, it has a green cross in front of it. I was wondering what it was, because I pass it every day. And I decided this time when I get home I’m going to look it up on Google and see what that place is. Well, it ends up that it’s one of those — you know, they say Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but, no, it’s one of those medical marijuana dispensaries, the other happiest place on earth. And it kind of got me wondering, because, you know, until this time I had heard about medical marijuana dispensaries. I never imagined there was one in the neighborhood, so to speak. I always thought there was like one in South Central and it has guys in zoot suits walking around outside of it, and this kind of thing, smoking or whatever. But, no, they are in our neighborhood.
Not only that, it had this little thing you could click on and it says, “Find other medical marijuana dispensaries in your neighborhood”. So, I clicked on that. Well, you almost couldn’t see the map for the little dots all over. It looked like the ants had found the sugar, you know. There were tons — I just never, never imagined. Now, some people ask me from time to time, What’s the position on that? And the position is that certainly if somebody needs medical marijuana, if somebody is ill in some way that that medical marijuana would help them, especially if they have a terminal illness, and the pain is too great, then, fine. I mean, face it, if the doctor is going to prescribe things for people who are in this situation that are far worse than pot honestly — you know, these chemicals that probably hasten their death if anything — so, if there is a real necessity, well, certainly. Okay? That’s easy. Now, I hesitate to say things like this, because people go out and say, Oh, Monsignor Perez is all for pot, and spreading around, and pretty soon I’m getting angry letters from sede vacantists saying, We knew it all the time, potheads over there at Our Lady Help of Christians.
Well, no, please understand carefully that I do not think we could be opposed to it in case of real necessity. But I remember one of our parishioners who did have a necessity went in to this place, and she was telling me, she says, “I’m pretty sure I was the only person in there that really needed it, because it was full of teenagers, basically.
And, furthermore, that place that I Googled, it had a web site, and it had comments that reinforced what I thought about the place, and it wasn’t like, Oh, it helped me in my suffering in my stage four cancer. There were no comments like that. It was, The top shelf at this place is awesome, dude. I come here every day. Okay? Now, this does not sound like somebody who needs the place particularly. And, you know, it became obvious that the majority, I would say, of people who are going to look for these places are looking for other reasons, some sort of comfort, some sort of escape. It kind of passed through my mind briefly –. Oh, yeah, there was another — there was a button, right? And you push on that and it says, Basically, these doctors will give you a prescription for any complaints or no complaints. And I could see people going in there and saying, you know, Oh, I can’t stand my parents. Oh, here’s your prescription. Oh, I have exams coming up and I’m under so much stress. Well, here’s your prescription. Oh, you know, my socks were mismatched and I washed a red shirt with the white underwear, or something, and they all turned pink. Well, here’s your prescription.
So, it crossed my mind briefly, like, I wonder if I could go over there and say, “I can’t stand what the Novus Ordo is doing. Can I get a prescription. And they’d go, Novus Ordo, it must be some sort of nervous disease. He’s in a lot of pain. Sure, here’s your prescription.
But the real point is that I think a lot of people are going to these places and looking for remedies that are Band-Aid solutions for them. They are false answers to a real problem. The real and only lasting answer is going to be found in God and in His Church through the sacraments and through the faith. Those are the real solutions to these things. The marijuana craze takes you out of whatever it is temporarily, but ultimately it doesn’t help you with the underlying problems. Only God can really put a fix on that one.
Now, when you think about it, God comforts us during our entire life, from beginning to end. He never abandons us, not for any time whatsoever. Think about the sacraments and what they do and how they are spaced. We have baptism right at the very beginning to make us children of God and give us sanctifying grace and get rid of original sin, right through penance, which we keep with us during our entire life to give us that great gift of being able to know that our sins have been forgiven through the ministration of a priest. You know, whatever Protestants say, I know I am forgiven. How do you know you are forgiven? Oh, I’ve got this feeling, I’ve got this feeling. Well, I’ve got that feeling. I take Alka-Seltzer when I get that feeling, okay? Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s knowing that Christ said you are forgiven through this sacrament. You go to the sacrament, there’s no choice but to know that Christ has forgiven you through the ministration of the priest — all through the sacraments, right to the very end to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction.
Now, in today’s gospel it says about the good Samaritan that he took the poor fellow who had been beaten up and he bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. The Fathers of the Church unanimously say that this is a figure of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. And, so, I thought it would be good to say a few words about that today. You know, we talk about it at certain times. It has been a while, and so, this is a wonderful opportunity, since all the Fathers of the Church are unanimous about this.
First of all, then, what is Extreme Unction? We also know it as Last Rites, but to give you the definition, Extreme Unction is that sacrament in virtue of which the sick believer, by the anointing of the oil and the prayers of the priest, receives the grace of God for the supernatural salvation of his soul and often for the natural healing of his body. As a sacrament, first of all, one of seven and only seven, it is instituted by Christ Himself. Now, ever since the Protestants came to be, they have said, Well, there’s nowhere it is found in the Bible that Christ instituted that as a sacrament. Well, we have references to it. We don’t believe that the Bible has everything in it, and including this. Where Christ instituted it, we don’t know, but we do know that it is in the New Testament. We have references to it dating from right around the time of the Resurrection. For example, the epistle of James, there’s a line, “If anyone is sick amongst you, let him call the priest and be anointed with the oil and prayers“, etc. And there are other references as well. But it was instituted by Christ Himself.
Why do I emphasize that? Because, not only do the Protestants deny it, but the modernists deny that as well, the ones who call themselves Catholic but subscribe to the modernist’s heresy. So we have it from all sides. Yet, there is no doubt that it was instituted by Christ Himself.
As you can see from the definition, though, that I gave you, Extreme Unction has a number of facets and elements. The definition is loaded as it is. So, I want to pick it apart a little bit.
Now, first of all, just the name, Extreme Unction, the formal name for it that we use. Extreme means in the end, really, is what extreme means. Even when you think about it, Oh, she’s so extreme, meaning she’s almost in orbit, you know, about the end of a personality that they can be on a certain issue. That would be extreme, but at the end, at the end. When somebody is dying, we say in Latin that they are in extremis. So, at the end, then, the first part, Extreme. And Unction just means anointing with oil.
So, it’s an anointing with oil at the end or towards the end of someone’s life is where the name comes from. Now, the Novus Ordo uses another name for it. They use anointing of the sick. It’s the same thing.Not that Novus Ordo is the same thing, but we’re talking about the same sacrament. They emphasize its’ use to heal people, rather than at the end of their lives. You know, there may be problems with that, I think, because I have seen it used a little bit used more for that purpose than for its’ real use under the conditions that somebody be pretty sick. But, in any case, Anointing of the Sick, Extreme Unction, Last Rites, all refer to the same thing.
Now, who is eligible? First of all, they would have had to attained the use of reason, somebody who is a Catholic, baptized, practicing, over about seven years old, they would be eligible. But also it’s not just being over seven that makes you eligible — it may make your parents eligible, but it doesn’t make you eligible. What makes you a candidate is some sort of danger of death first of all, a threatening illness. Now, this can take various forms, a sudden sort of thing, or even something that’s not sudden that could be life threatening. I claim — and I am supported fairly well on this by the church, but if you are over about 80 or something like that, I think it could be argued that there is a danger of death. People over 80 — first of all, most of the population is not over 80 for a good reason because 80s and beyond is the years that people normally die these days. So, if somebody is older than that, I would say that they could receive the sacrament as a precaution.
This especially applies to us because we are not the little local parish, right? I mean, you don’t all ride your bicycles here from three blocks away like it would have been in the old days. Some of you live very far away, and were something to happen to you, there would be no way to get to you in a few minutes, or maybe sometimes even an hour. Somebody in Northridge or something over that side of L.A., you know, on a Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock has a heart attack. I don’t even think I’d make it there by the funeral, you know. So, there have to be some precautions. But, generally, some kind of threat of death in some way. Also, if you are older and maybe not even 80, but you have to have a very serious operation, things can happen. You hear about it all the time. That would be occasion to have the sacrament. So, a lot of people are eligible for this.
Now, as in any sacrament, this is the scholastic part, it has two components called the matter and the form. Every one of the sacraments has two essential parts that compose the sacrament. There are tons of prayers in some of them, but the prayers that actually make the sacrament and the actions that actually make the sacrament are reducible to two things, the matter and the form. So, what’s the matter? You know, what’s the matter? I need Extreme Unction. (Monsignor laughing) The matter of the sacrament is — there are two — the remote matter is the olive oil, called the oil of the sick, Oleo Infirmorum, blessed by a bishop on Holy Thursday. Now, the church has always been very careful to specify olive oil in the past 2000 years. I don’t know if the issue has been studied much. The Novus Ordo says you can use any vegetable oil, and I don’t know, because the church pronouncement seemed rather strong in the area of it must be olive oil. Because olive oil is what Christ would have used, of course, and the apostles would have used. Back then they didn’t have like canola or coconut oil or anything like that. And what excuse, really, would a Novus Order parish have for using canola or Wesson or something to consecrate for oil of the sick or for chrism. You know, you go to any store and buy olive oil. You can go to 7-Eleven, they have olive oil, probably even extra virgin — there’s no excuse for not using it is what I am saying. So, I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t use it. Anyway, that’s the remote matter.
The proximate matter is actually the priest putting the oil on the person, and the form, the other part, are the prayers which accompany that. Now, we have a long form and a short form, just so you know, and they do exactly the same thing. There’s a long form in which each of the senses is anointed individually, like, By this holy anointing and the Lord’s most tender mercies may He forgive you whatever sins you have committed by use of sight, for example, you anoint the eyelids, or hearing, the ears, smell, nose, lips, speech, taste, the mouth, and so forth. Well, there is also a short form. I use this a lot. Why do I use it a lot? Because you go to a hospital and the person has tubes and electrodes and things all over the place. It really isn’t convenient to start anointing all their senses. You can’t even get to some of their senses, when Page 4 the nurses are all pouring over them and doing what they do. So, there is what they call the short form or emergency form, in which you make one sign of the cross on the person and you just say the same words, but, May the Lord forgive you whatever sins you have committed. And you anoint them with the oil. Usually I do it on the forehead if I can get there. I have, in previous years, once or twice, done it on somebody’s foot, because that was the only part I could get to, you know, that kind of thing.
Anyway, that’s the prayer, the matter and the form of the sacrament. Now, what does it do? It is not really for the forgiveness of mortal sins, first of all. Let me tell you that. Some people who haven’t been to church in a while or whatever, are on what would be their deathbed, and think, well, oh, well, now I’ll call the priest, and he’ll just give me Extreme Unction and I’ll be off scot-free. Well, if you are conscious, you have to also confess. You can’t just say, Okay, anoint me now and forgive me my sins, here we go, because technically the sacrament of Extreme Unction is not for the forgiveness of mortal sin. It’s for strengthening, it’s for final perseverance, it’s for the forgiveness of venial sins. So what has to happen, then, is it has to be done in conjunction with confession, absolution and then the anointing after that.
What else does it do? It gives sanctifying and actual graces to strengthen a person for the final battle. Why? Well, at the end of your life the devil pulls out all the stops because it’s how you finish that matters. It’s how you finish. So, you know, if you’re lying there and you’ve been to confession just a few days before and then you have a heart attack and you’re lying there and your mind is wandering and you think of past sins and go, Yeah, that was wrong but that was pretty fun, you know, I liked that, and you sit there enjoying it once more in your mind and you die right after that, guess where you go? Because you have just committed mentally that sin again with all its’ seriousness and all its’ implications. So you need something to strengthen you against — you see, the devil, he’s waving all these carrots at you or out and out attacking you on your deathbed because he wants you, and that’s his last chance to get you.
But if you’ve been devoted to the rosary and devoted to Our Lady, first of all, she will stand between you and the devil — and the deep blue sea, as they say. But, she will be there, as well, protecting you from these onslaughts, and the sacrament will give you more grace and more protection against the onslaughts of the devil. So that somebody who has been close to Our Lady and close to the sacraments really does not have as much to worry about their final hours as somebody who is a little iffy. If you are away from the church for a period of years and then came back on your deathbed, well, you’re going to need constant vigilance to not fall back into sin in your last minutes. So that’s why we stay close to the sacraments.
But it prepares you for the final battle, or, if it be God’s will, the sacrament restores the person to health or at least kind of peps them up and gives them a little more time. And what’s the reason? I think the reason is unfinished business. I think when some people are anointed, they spring back because there is something they haven’t properly confessed or repented of, some unfinished business with relatives or family, this kind of thing. That’s only my guess. I can only imagine why God’s Providence would allow them to come back for a while, and then die at a later date.
I remember when I was over in Europe there was an old man living in a house that was willed to the seminary, and as soon as he died, the seminary was going to get it. I guess he had a living trust. But, the seminary was going to get the property. And several times he was in extremis and I was called to anoint him, and he got better every time. And, then, the superior of the seminary, he was in a quandary because well, yeah, we have to anoint him, but every time Perez anoints him, he gets better and then we’ll never get this house. (Monsignor laughing) So, finally, I got put in a parish and some other priest went to him the next time and he died, not that, you know, there was a connection. But the point I want to make is that people spring back sometimes for some reason that we don’t know.
When should a priest be called or approached for the sacrament? You know, if you find that you have a terminal illness, I mean, who knows, maybe I’m going to find out I have a terminal illness, I’m not saying, Oh, you — I mean it’s any one of us because look at the stats, right? Life is a hundred percent fatal, so you are going to die of something, and sometimes it’s going to be slower than others. But as soon as you find out. You know, it’s like, Oh, I got the diagnosis from the doctor, approach a priest, any one of us, and say, I’d like to be anointed, because it’s good for an entire sickness. If you live another year, get anointed again. If you get another illness, you can be anointed for every new illness. Let’s say you have some sort of cancer and then you get pneumonia. You can be anointed again because pneumonia is life threatening, you see. So, any one of these things you can get it. If you are older, 80 plus, ask for the sacrament just in general. You can be anointed and, if nothing happens to you, then, you can be anointed every year, even without any other sort of illness coming in, and it’s a good idea.
So, for any of these, the priest should be approached for the sacrament. You are older and you are having serious surgery, get anointed before, because reactions to anesthesia happen. You know, just things happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry. It can only do you good. I mean, getting anointed a bunch of times isn’t going to do you any harm. It’s only going to do you good physically and spiritually, of course.
Calling people for relatives. What if the person is unconscious? Well, like I say, if they are conscious, they have to be willing to confess. If they are unconscious, let’s say anyone here if you were unconscious and a relative or friend called, you’d be anointed right away. There’s no doubt that you had the intention to confess. Let’s say somebody has a stroke, okay? God forbid, but let’s say somebody has a stroke, they are unconscious and they are a regular parishioner. Well, if they were awake they would want to go to confession. So you just give them absolution when they are unconscious and you anoint them when they are unconscious. And it has exactly the same effect as it would if they were conscious. Okay? So, yes, if somebody is unconscious, call right away if they are a practicing Catholic and all that.
Now, one thing I want to say something about, it sounds a little harsh but you have to understand. Avoid what I call the well-intended relative or friend syndrome. And what this is, there are people who are not practicing Catholics, had no intention of becoming practicing Catholics, in fact, rejected the faith, you know, the old codger or whatever that had wanted nothing to do with the church or Catholicism, even ridiculed you for your faithful attendance at Mass and practicing of the faith, this kind of thing. You know, you ask numerous times, they were aging, they were obviously just getting closer and closer to death, but they would have no part of a priest or confessing, even though they hadn’t been in 50 years. When they go unconscious, you don’t call a priest. Please, don’t bother us in cases like that. And I know it sounds harsh, but it’s not meant to be. What I mean to explain is that somebody like that has set up a condition in their soul where the sacrament can do nothing for them. And, so, you are literally wasting a good part of our day that we could be doing ministering to people who are faithful Catholics by calling us. The sacrament is miraculous, but it’s not magic. If you have the permanent disposition of your soul during your life you rejected the faith and the ministrations of a priest, when you go unconscious, it’s the same as if you had been awake. You would still be rejecting the sacrament. Just because you are unconscious, doesn’t mean a priest can sneak in and anoint you and it’s going to work. It’s not going to work on these people.
So, first of all, if you know one of these people and you are just waiting for them to go unconscious to call a priest, please do not. Make every effort to win them over before they go unconscious or whatever, but if they don’t, then they have chosen their path, and there is nothing I can do by coming or you can do or anybody else.
Also, remind these people — there are some people like that that without asking the person in question who was still conscious if they want to see a priest, they call a priest. And I go walking into the hospital room and say, Oh, hi, you are Mr. So and So, yeah, here I am. Get the heck out of here. I never called for you. So, please make sure that the person, if they are awake, desires us to be there, you know, wants us to come and anoint them, and intends to confess. Okay? Now, if you’ve established all that kind of stuff, great. Call us, we’ll be there as fast as we can. But if it’s somebody who they themselves had not asked for us, don’t bother us, again, because it’s going to be a wasted trip to the hospital in most cases, and I’ve done tons of those. All right? So, like I say, it sounds a little callous, it’s not callous at all. It’s reality. Someone who has rejected a priest outright, they are not going to suddenly soften like butter when Monsignor Perez shows up in the room. Right? They are going to throw me out, which they have done. (Monsignor laughing) It’s like, You might want to reconsider that. You know, they say you’re probably not going to leave here, except in a box. Right? Oh, get out of here. So, anyway, well-intending relative/friend syndrome.
Finally, make sure everybody who is around you who has the responsibility of caring for you in any way has the numbers of the priest and knows that if anything happens to you, the first — you know, call 911 second. Call the priest first so we can be on the way to anoint you and take care of you. You know this sounds kind of obvious, but a lot of people, their children don’t do their wishes or don’t even know what they are in regard to this. You go, oh, my son, my daughter will know to call a priest, and the son or daughter who doesn’t practice the faith either, that’s not in their mind. Your bank account and the will is on their minds, and this kind of thing. But calling a priest for you might not be the first thing on some of their minds. So, you make sure they know what to do and you make sure you have our phone numbers right there for them so that — you say, See these numbers? You keep on calling those if something happens to me until you get hold of one of them and they come here. Okay? So that’s the thing you need to do there. And make sure they know to do that right away.
My dear faithful, Extreme Unction can literally make the difference between heaven and hell. And it’s a comfort. It is a comfort for people who receive it. You know, I’ve been anointed before. Many people are here that have been anointed before. We loved it. It gave peace.
Also — okay, certain cultures — you see, my Mom’s Italian and I know — but also Mexicans do it, and some other cultures, too — they don’t want to call the priest because they’re afraid that mamma will be scared. You’re going to scare mamma if she sees big ol’ Father Perez walking in there, she’s going to think she died and went the other way, or something. No, you will not scare mamma. What will scare mamma is if she wakes up and she’s in hell. That will scare mamma, guaranteed. Okay? But calling the priest will not scare mamma. You call us. None of this, Oh, we don’t want to scare them. And what happens if they don’t want to scare mamma, so, like the day after she’s dead they call. Well, that doesn’t work. What does work — let’s say somebody drops right dead, fatal whatever, instant, boom. You can still anoint them up to four hours later, because, according to the Catholic definition of death, there is still life in them, and up to four hours later. If there’s still life in them, they can be anointed. So, if they drop dead right now, don’t just think, Too late, wish we had seen that one coming, but, I don’t know, let’s go make the funeral arrangements now. No, you still call us and we can still get there up to four hours later.
Remember, on that point, the Catholic definition of death — now, why do I say this? Because the people who trade organs for lots of money and deal in them have set up a new definition of death which is not real. The definition of death is, You’re all dead. You’re very much dead. Your kidneys are dead, your liver’s dead, your heart’s dead, and the only — according to the moral theologians, the only sure indicator of death is advanced decomposition. Now, when you are really dead, you are not good for anything. No that you were during life, some of you are thinking, but (Monsignor laughing) — You don’t know my kid. He wasn’t worth anything during his life. But your organs are no good because they’re dead, too. In the new definition, Oh, brain dead. There’s no such a thing as brain death. The reason why we are opposed to organ transplants is that you must kill somebody to get most of them. Now, the exceptions being kidney transplants that you can get from a brother or sister or relative, something like that, who is close genetically, fine. They can live without one kidney. But you can’t live without your heart or without your liver. And, so, we are vehemently opposed as being immoral to any liver transplant, any heart transplant, any transplant of any organ without which the person cannot live. Okay? So, just remember that. On your driver’s license in no way, shape or form make yourself an organ donor. Why? Because they will kill you to get your organs. Many a person has recovered from what they call brain death. They’ve been in a coma, sometimes, for years and then snapped out of it and come back to normal life. Their new definition is just so they can take out your organs and make lots of money on them, and it is nothing short of murder.
So, remember, my dear faithful, Extreme Unction can make the difference between heaven or hell, so don’t think twice. If there’s any reason you should have that sacrament or somebody near and dear to you should have it, call immediately and get it.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.