By Jack Smith
At 93, he’s the oldest priest in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph. “I wasn’t ordained to retire,” Monsignor William Blacet told me. The still-active Pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish shared his thoughts with me last week about the importance of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick:
What has been your approach to ministering to the sick or dying?
I try to think of our Lord’s approach. He was very compassionate. Always went out of his way. He brought back the dead. He cured, one by one, hundreds of people. He chased out the demons. So, if a person is getting old or health is going down, they need extra help, extra attention. They need encouragement.
That’s a time when the devil, and I’m with the Pope on that, the devil’s very influential and active today. The devil’s going to come after you because you’re weak. Things aren’t going your way and you need somebody to say, ‘Hey, stick in there’.
In my experience, the Anointing of the Sick has been misused, misinformed and hasn’t been taught. In the beginning it was the Anointing of the Sick and then we came along and it became – the last rights. . . Like they said, the old timer is dying and father comes in and says, ‘Sam you’re pretty sick.’
‘That’s what they tell me.’
‘So I’ve come to anoint you.’
‘Am I really dying, father?’
‘Well I wouldn’t say you’re dying this minute or tomorrow, but you’re in bad shape Sam.’
‘Father, why don’t you come back next week and see.’
When you saw father come in to the house, you might as well call the undertaker. It was the last minute. That was prevalent, even somewhat today. Vatican II changed that. It brought back the Anointing of the Sick. . .
What we are lacking today, I think, is informing the people of the beauty of the Anointing of the Sick. So, if you are 65 or older or if you’re seriously sick or if you’re going to be operated on, fine, let’s anoint you. Because you need the extra strength, encouragement, that God is here. He loves you and he wants you to love him and stick with him. So he’s given us this sacrament to let you know that Christ is here with you, and don’t let him down. Stick with him. . .
We need that help of the sacrament. . .
How do people react to or benefit from the sacrament?
Usually it’s one of comfort. They appreciate it. I see through the sacrament, the Holy Spirit working in them. . .
The Holy Spirit gives them the strength, gives them the encouragement and the graces that they need. Plus, what do we say in there?
We say, ‘May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up’. Your sins are being forgiven. Even though they say, ‘Father, my sins are so many,’ . . . this sacrament says, he frees you from your sins. You’re gonna be saved man. What more could you ask for? What has this world got that you think is more important the seeing God and being with God.
People hope for some physical healing too?
Oh they do. But the important thing that you have to realize, and I have to realize, is the soul is far more important than the body. So, if God wants you to be healed physically, fine, that’s his business. But I’m more concerned about being healed spiritually. . . That’s the important thing. . . Physical is minor compared to the spiritual.