I’ll never forget, when I was a deacon and was helping in a parish in Pennsylvania on the weekends, taking communion to an elderly gentleman and finding, when I arrived, that he had a candle lit and a crucifix near him. He knew the traditional way of receiving Holy Communion in his home.
Indeed, it used to be common for people to receive a “sick call crucifix” as a wedding gift. They would hang it over their marriage bed. And the idea was that, in old age or infirmity, when a priest had to come over to provide the sacraments, the crucifix would be taken down, and set up beside the bed with the candles lit.
Do you have a sick call crucifix in your home? Here is one that I saw in the EWTN Religious Catalogue:
Usually there was a small bottle inside to hold holy water. Of course, that meant that you would have to change out the holy water every now and then, or at least fill it with water and ask the priest to bless it when he arrived.
If you called a priest to your home to bring Holy Communion, then ideally, someone would be waiting by the window for the priest, and seeing him pull in the driveway, go outside (holding a candle) to escort him into the house. After all, he is carrying with him the Most Blessed Sacrament! Nowadays, if someone did this I would be shocked!
But it is important that we think about this. When a priest brings the Most Blessed Sacrament to your home, Someone far more important than any other person on earth is coming over: Christ himself. It is not a time for small talk, to have the television on blaring in the background, or for folks to be fidgeting with their smartphones. It’s a time for everyone to stop, recollect themselves, and pray for the sick person to whom the sacraments are being brought. We all need to prepare ourselves for this eventuality. When I am sick and need communion in my home, will I be ready? Will my family be ready?
And folks, you have my permission to put the fear of God in your children and loved ones and insist that the first thing they do, after calling the doctor or the ambulance, is to call the priest. This should be so seared into their minds that they wouldn’t dare forget, even under the greatest distress and sorrow. Perhaps it would be wise to keep the local church’s emergency phone number next to the phone.
Getting back to the main subject of this post: if you have a sick call crucifix, maybe it’s time to take it off the wall, open it up, and make sure that it has the necessary supplies in it: two smallish candles, and a clean bottle for holy water (sometimes they also have a little linen cloth). If you don’t have such a crucifix, then it might be a nice thing to obtain from your local Catholic store or a good catalog. And then invite the priest over to bless your home and bless that crucifix.
Nobody likes to think about being gravely ill or on one’s death bed, and all that it brings with it. But it’s going to happen to us all in one way or another. Better get ready now!