Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Viaticum, food for the journey for Don Antonio

This morning I got a phone call that Don Antonio from Mar Azul had died earlier today. I had visited him during Holy Week and last Sunday I went back to visit him and bring him Communion. A church worker in a neighboring village had told me that he was very ill. He was about ninety years old.

The visit on the Wednesday of Holy Week was still present in my heart. Then he had some strength. We helped him get a sponge bath with warm water. But he washed and dried his private parts and even bent over to pull up the clean pants that were there.

For me, that visit was living the Washing of the Feet a day early.

This time, it was different. When I entered the house, I saw a large number of people from Quebrada Grande were there to accompany the family. I also spoke with a daughter who was taking care of him and met some of his grandchildren and a teen age great grandchild with some special needs.

I tried talking with Don Antonio, but though he didn’t speak I sensed that he was aware of what was happening.

I had a sense that this might be his last communion and so I used some of the parts of the rite for Viaticum outside of Mass.

The word Viaticum comes from Latin: Via cum te – on the way with you. The Eucharist is the provision for one’s journey to God.

I spoke with Don Antonio, as well as with his daughter who, I noticed, had a gentle touch with her father, as she gave him spoonfuls of water after I had placed a particle of the host on his tongue. I also asked him to pray for me, for our parish, and for his village, beset with divisions.

The rite for Viaticum is moving, especially the final blessing, which is different in Spanish than in English. Here is the Spanish with my translation:

Que nuestro Señor Jesucristo te acompañe y te defienda.
Que te anteceda para guiarte y vaya detrás de ti para protegerte.
Que ponga sus ojos sobre ti, te guarde y te bendiga.

May our Lord Jesus Christ accompany you and defend you.
May he go before you to guide you and go behind you to protect you.
May he place his eyes over you, guard you, and bless you.

As I reflect on this prayer this morning, I note how much this is like a famous prayer of Saint Patrick:

Christ with me, Christ before me;
Christ behind me, Christ in me;
Christ under me, Christ over me;
Christ to right of me, Christ to left of me;
Christ in lying down, in sitting, in rising up;
Christ in all who may think of me!
Christ in the mouth of all who may speak to me!
Christ in the eye that may look on me!
Christ in the ear that may hear me!

May Don Antonio rest in the loving arms of God and may he pray for us. 

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