Spiritual food for the soul

By Pat Wettstein | October 31, 2013

Pastoral care ministry delivers spiritual nourishment to the sick and homebound

Picture this. It’s been a long day. You either had to work extra hours or maybe you were at home not feeling well, and the last thing you wanted to do was cook a meal for yourself and your family. So you make that phone call and ask, “Do you deliver?” Of course you know the food will cost a little extra because of the home delivery and then there’s the tip for the person who brings it to your door. But at the time, you feel it’s worth it. Your body is tired and hungry and you need nourishment at the end of that oh, so long, day.

Now let us picture ourselves at Mass. Everything is going as usual, but then you notice that your neighbor has this strange-looking gold “pillbox” in his hand as he’s processing to Communion. Or, you may have noticed a whole line of “pillboxes” on the altar next to the ciboria and the cups. After watching for a while, you realize that the body of Christ, in the form of bread, is being placed into those little containers.

Well, that my friends, is take-home delivery for the spiritual nourishment of the body and soul and that little home delivery system is call a “pyx.” There is an entire ministry dedicated to this service, called the pastoral care of the sick and homebound. You may even know of someone who is hospitalized, or too ill and too frail to leave his or her home to attend Mass. But like the corporal nourishment of their body, so too they want and need the spiritual food for their soul. 

Early Christians used a pyx-like vessel to bring Communion to the sick. Justin Martyr, from his First Apology, Chapter 55 in the year 155 A.D., cites, “When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded ‘Amen,’ those whom we call deacons give to those present the ‘eucharisted’ bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent” (www.jesuschristsavior.net). There are some parishes that have a sending rite after Communion to bless the extraordinary ministers before they leave the church to minister to the sick and homebound. And, like the liturgy at Mass, the rites of the sick have prayers, blessings, readings and distribution of Communion. It is a profound and intimate ministry that many find very rewarding. And best of all it’s free — no meal cost, no tip, no delivery charges. The only phone call you have to make is to your friendly rectory office.

Wettstein is director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.

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