Skip to main content


Liturgy: When There's a Medical Emergency

1/20/2008 - 08:33 PST

Advertisment

ROME, JAN. 20, 2008 (Zenit) - Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: During a weekday Mass a parishioner collapsed during the Prayers of the Faithful. Someone with a cell phone called for assistance from a local hospital. The emergency team arrived, brought in a gurney, questioned the stricken man, took his blood pressure, managed to get him onto the gurney, and wheeled him out to the waiting ambulance. Meanwhile, the presider kept on with the Mass, right through the consecration and Communion, while all of this was going on just a few feet away from the altar. While visiting another church some years ago, I witnessed a different reaction to an apparent medical emergency. During Sunday Mass the presider noticed that a woman was visibly becoming faint; he left the altar and caught her before she fell, then took her to the back of the church and left her in the hands of the ushers, who presumably hadn't been in a position to notice the emergency as it was developing. Then he resumed the Mass. This seemed a lot more caring and communal than simply ignoring an obvious medical emergency. Is there some statement somewhere to the effect that nothing but nothing should interrupt the Mass? -- C.A., Urbana, Illinois

A: There is no overall rule, other than common sense and pastoral tact, to respond to such emergencies.

While the Mass should not generally be interrupted, circumstances such as those described could lead to a temporary interruption with no disrespect shown.

It would also depend on the particular moment during which the medical emergency occurred. For example, it is easier for a priest to notice a fainting parishioner during the readings then during the Eucharistic Prayer when many priests avoid looking toward the assembly.

My own reaction in this case would probably have been to interrupt the Mass at least while the emergency team was doing its work. This is, in part, because such situations polarize everybody's attention and nobody would follow the Mass anyway. Also, if the parishioner was in danger of death and no other priest was available, then it would be necessary to leave the altar and administer the sacraments.

That said, I do not wish to censure the priest in the first case as I am unaware of all the circumstances that led him to decide that the most appropriate course was to continue the Mass. The priest in the second example reacted with commendable attentiveness and sensitivity to a particular situation, but different circumstances might lead to different reactions.

A particular case is when the subject of the medical emergency is the priest himself. If a priest is unable to continue celebrating a Mass due to a sudden illness, then another priest may continue the Mass from the interruption point. This includes the case in which a priest only managed to consecrate the species of bread; the replacement priest continues the Mass from the consecration of the chalice.

* * *

Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Liturgy, Medical, Emergency, McNamara

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:10-20
Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
[Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go away,' they said. ... Read More

Saint of the Day

October 30 Saint of the Day

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
October 30: Confessor and Jay brother, also called Alonso. He was born in ... Read More