Beyond the glass lay a man, unconscious in the electric blue light, shrouded in tubes. His family was not allowed to visit. His body could not be touched.
Father Ryan Connors stood at the door watching, his Roman collar barely visible beneath his face shield.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, he had gone to the bedsides of Covid-19 patients across the Boston area to perform one of the oldest religious rituals for the dying: the Roman Catholic practice commonly called last rites.
For centuries, priests have physically anointed the dying with oil to heal body and soul, if not in this life, in the next. Many Catholics have spent their entire lives trusting that in their most difficult hours a priest, and through him God, would come to their aid.
On this Tuesday morning, in the intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, west of the city, all that Father Connors knew about the patient was his name, and that his family had called for a priest.
He had a clear plastic bag with a cotton ball containing a few drops of holy oil. He carried a photocopy of pages from a liturgical book.
At 10:18 a.m., he slid open the door. He walked over to the bed, careful to avoid the tubes on the ground.
He stretched out his hand, and began to pray….
Jesuit Brian Conley SJ quoted in NY Times article “The Last Anointing” about the importance of the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick to Catholic COVID patients and the challenges faced by hospital chaplains during the pandemic. https://t.co/vKHdmfP2Fg pic.twitter.com/3WD4CgadSA
— Jesuits West (@jesuitswest) June 8, 2020