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You Are Not Alone

Called to offer the sacraments to those dying of Covid-19, Father Daniele discovers a new depth to vocation, time, and work.

Barocci, "Madonna del Popolo" (detail)

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis put together a team of about a dozen priests to grant the sacrament of the anointing of the sick to those suffering from Coronavirus and in danger of dying. This is a great sign of the maternal care of our Church as the tightening restrictions prevent patients’ family and friends from entering their rooms and many people die alone. I am among those priests appointed by the Archdiocese for this special ministry, and I feel it is a privilege. It’s indeed a privilege to be called to take care of the faithful who are most in need at this time, but also an honor to do it on behalf of our Church. I know that I’m sent to represent each one of you and ultimately the One whose body you are.

Most of the time, the person we are called to anoint is unresponsive and no one is in the room. The words and gestures of the sacrament break the silence and desolation of that chamber, and a ray of Heaven suddenly illuminates and dispels the darkness; one can feel the bare and objective power of God’s effective words and actions. I think that this ministry expresses in a very simple way the fundamental aim of the Church: to bring the closeness of God to people, especially people who are suffering. To say to them, “You are not alone. God is here, close to you. Your solitude, suffering, and death is not the last word.”

Barocci, "Madonna del Popolo" (detail)

This is, after all, the meaning of our vocation as priests, even in normal circumstances: to be an instrument of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. In different forms, this is also the vocation of each one of us as Christians. From this point of view, there is no difference between working from home, taking care of your kids, doing chores around the house, or visiting those sick with COVID-19. All of this is important in the same way, as long as each one of us is where God asks him or her to be.

As Saint Therese of Lisieux points out, even the smallest thing done in the secret of your house and offered up to God can hold the scope of the entire world and affect the lives of people all around the planet. The usefulness of our life, in fact, is not bound to what we do, but to its being an answer to God’s vocation, the only adequate horizon to what we are doing. All of our lives participate in the same goal with the same dignity, allowing Christ to be present and do His work, the sole necessary and important work that is needed.

Another aspect that really strikes me about this ministry is that we never know when we’re going to be called, so we have to be ready all the time. It’s not easy because there are a lot of steps and procedures we must follow in order to get ready. It’s easy to lose focus and make mistakes. After all, this is Christianity. This is the way we all are called to live always: to be ready to hear the voice of God that, through different and unexpected circumstances, can call us at any time.

Barocci, "Madonna del Popolo" (detail)

By “forcing” me to always be prepared, this ministry is teaching me the value of time and work. Whatever I’m doing (working remotely for our parish, reading, or doing chores around the house), everything is connected with that call that could arrive any time; it’s much more evident that reality, every aspect of it, is pregnant with Someone who gives it its meaning and proper horizon. So, everything becomes what it truly and always has been: relationship with God, a space to hear Him calling.

Father Daniele, North Saint Paul, Minnesota


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