The Apostolic Pardon

by Fr. Jeff

The score is 42 to 10. LSU has beaten the Georgia Bulldogs to capture the 2011 SEC Championship and has earned a spot to play in the BCS National Championship Game. The backyard listens patiently to the ruckus of our excitement.

The phone rings: “Father, death is imminent. Come to the ICU as soon as you can.”

I check my collar to make sure it is on. After saying a quick goodbye, I turn my headlights toward the local hospital. The parking lot is sparse at this hour of night. Reaching behind my passenger seat, I unhook my coat. By habit, I check the inner pocket: book, stole, oils.

As I pass through the doors to the emergency room, the nurse at the desk greets me with a smile. In the corner sits a man and his son. With a quick glance, I notice that their faces seem dark. They betray a sense of worry with a hint of panic. “If only I could visit with them.” However, I must go on. He is waiting for me.

The urgency pulls me through the maze of corridors to the elevator. Up I go as my mind and my soul inch closer to their Creator. “Make me a channel of your peace.”

Ding. The doors open to the hallway. With this one left turn, I will see the family in the waiting room. “Lord, I am yours.”

His sister-in-law meets me at the doorway. “Father, thank you so much for coming. Can we go in with you?” “Yes,” I reply softly. “Come, let us go and pray.”

It’s always a moment for reflection watching the doors to the ICU open. The doors of death? The gates of heaven? Time for one last prayer: “Lord, I am yours.”

As I cross the threshold of hope, my gaze is met by the eyes of another. A melancholy smile beckons me closer. Step by step. I am holding my breath. The family is standing in a semi-circle. The sound is deafening: silence.

It won’t be long now.

I make my way to the side of the bed. As my stole unfolds, purple fills the room. Its a sight to behold, for certain. A splash of color in the midst of darkness. Hope in front of death.

In front of death, what can I say? Where do I begin? Do I greet the family? Do I offer a word of comfort? I feel my heart begin to beat a little bit faster. Then, I remember the words of the priests who taught me well: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

Word by word, prayer by prayer. I slowly lead the family through the Anointing of the Sick. Then comes that moment: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.”

It won’t be long now.

“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.”

As I make the sign of the Cross, a long, constant beep breaks the silence. From my left the words come: “He’s gone.”

No more waiting.

On my drive back to the church, my eyes fill with tears: you waited for me. From my youngest days, you called me to serve as your priest. I was a child: you waited for me. Fourteen years of school: you waited for me. Seven years of seminary: you waited for me.

I was watching football: you waited for me.

You waited so that I, your priest, could anoint him with your sacred oil and give him your forgiveness. You waited for some of the most important words of his life. You waited for some of the most important words of mine:

the Apostolic Pardon.