By Carolanne Hauck
What a beautiful way to end a meaningful and busy Saturday, by participating in what presider Fr. Rich Bauer called the Catholic Church’s best kept secret: the sacrament of anointing. Different for us this year from years past was the sacred space in which the service was held: a small chapel on the second floor of the retreat center. Simple, small and sacred. One would have guessed hundreds were singing as the choir of chaplains, many of whom only met the day before, used their voices (and instruments) to call upon our healer, Jesus.
Father Bauer reminded us of a physician who used the metaphor of a burning building to describe what we as chaplains do. Instead of running from the fire, we run to it — and eventually we get burned. Then we ourselves are the ones who need healing and anointing. He invited us to acknowledge the emotional and sometimes physical pain of caring for others and to accept and receive this rich gift from the Church for our own healing.
Chaplain Mary Tracy shared a beautiful reflection, tying the meaning of Paul’s reminder that we are one body with John’s words describing the women at the foot of the cross. She invited us to join Mary and bring to the dying Christ our sense of powerlessness and our own suffering. With our eyes closed, she led us to the face of Jesus, where we were encouraged to look directly into his eyes, notice his love for us, and feel the healing power that comes from his own vulnerability, his own humanity. Mary offered the idea of holding this visual mantra of Christ looking into our eyes as a way to continue to bring healing to ourselves, our community, and our world.
As the priests went before each person, anointing and praying for Christ’s healing, others also used their hands and touch to pray for one another’s healing. These moments called to mind the heart of chaplaincy and the mission of NACC: to bring the healing ministry of Jesus in the name of the Church to those in our care. On this night, chaplains received the healing ministry of Jesus through the Church.
Carolanne Hauck, BCC, is director of chaplaincy care and education at Lancaster General Health in Lancaster, PA.