CLEVELAND -- In days long gone, Catholic priests regularly made deathbed house calls, even in the middle of the night with little notice, to pray over the dying and anoint them with holy oils.
The candlelight ritual, popularly known as last rites, continues in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice houses and private homes. But it happens less frequently because priests -- the only ones who can perform the service -- are in short supply.
Although fewer Catholics are seeking what’s officially known as the sacrament of anointing of the sick, those who do want it could be at risk of reaching their final hours without the prayer-whispering presence of a Roman-collared priest unless they plan ahead.
“We recommend that whenever you’re ill, ask for that sacrament,” said retired Cleveland auxiliary bishop Anthony Pilla. “So many times people don’t want to be anointed because they think that might mean they’re going to die.
“But it’s not just a sacrament for the dying,” he said. “It’s for the sick and the recovering.”