Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Sick Calls


When someone is bed-ridden, homebound, or in the hospital, the priest will make a "sick call" to ensure the person receives the Eucharist -- an especially important duty around Easter time (the priest will hear Confession if necessary). In cases of possible death, he will offer Extreme Unction (in such a situation, call the priest as soon as possible, day or night!). Unction is a separate Sacrament that includes what follows below and also an annointing with Oleum Infirmorum (the Oil of the Sick).

For a regular sick call (i.e., one that doesn't include Unction), call your priest and, when he comes, remember that he will be bringing the Blessed Sacrament, the very Body of Christ (the vessel that contains the Eucharist when the priest is traveling is called a "pyx"). Because of the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, men should remove any headcoverings, and women should cover their heads. To prepare the sick room:

  • Set up a table near the bed in a place where the sick person can see it, and cover it with a white cloth.

  • Place on the table the crucifix with a lit blessed candle on each side, a dish of holy water, a piece of palm (if you have some) that the priest can use to spinkle the holy water, and a small dish of regular water. Some families include a small bell that the priest or sick person rings after Confession is complete (if Confession is received) to summon the family back into the room.

  • Lay a linen cloth across the breast of the sick person.  

When the Priest arrives, meet him in silence at the door while carrying a lit blessed candle, genuflect, and lead him to the sickroom. Kneel, and stay with him and the sick one, offering your prayers, but do leave the room if Confession is to be heard, closing the door behind you. When the priest opens the door again, or rings the bell that some families include with their sick call sets, you may re-enter.

It is good to have a sick call set all ready in your family altar so in case of need you can just grab it. Crucifixes that hang on the wall, but then open up to reveal two small candles and a vial of holy water, and which can be set up on a table can be purchased from Catholic gift shops under the name "sick call sets," but you can make your own. What you'll need:

  • small white tablecloth
  • 2 blessed candles
  • standing crucifix
  • holy water
  • small dish for regular water (so priest can rinse fingertips when offering the Blessed Sacrament)
  • small dish for regular salt (to absorb oil from priest's fingertips after offering Unction when that Sacrament is called for)
  • linen cloth (so priest can dry fingers)
  • piece of palm from Palm Sunday (optional)
  • small bell (optional but nice to have)
  • a lovely, sturdy box to hold all these items with dignity and keep them ready

The Ritual

The priest enters the sick room itself.

V. Pax huic dómui.
R. Et ómnibus habitántibus in ea.
V. Peace to this house.
R. And all who dwell therein.

The priest lays the corporal on the prepared table, places the Blessed Sacrament on it, and sprinkles the room with Holy Water.

Aspérges me, Dómine, hyssópo, et mundábor; lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor,

Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, Lord, that I may be purified; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,

Miserére mei, Deus: secúndum magnam misericordiam tuam. Glora Patri, et Filii, et Spiritui Sancti.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

The Aspérges is repeated, and the priest continues:

V. Adjútorium nostrum in nómine Dómini
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram
V. Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
V. Dóminus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
V. Orémus.

Exáudi nos, Dómine sancte, Paer omnípotens, aeterne Deus: et mittere dignéris sanctum Angelum tuum de caelis, qui custódiat, fóveat, prótegat, visitet atque deféndat omnes habitántes in hoc habitáculo. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
R. Who made Heaven and Earth.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to Thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit
V. Let us pray.

Hear us, holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God: and be pleased to send Thy holy angel from Heaven to guard, cherish, protect, visit and defend all that dwell in this house. Through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen. R. Amen.

The priest goes closer to the sick person and, if necessary, hears his confession, in which case all others leave the room (if the sick call set includes a bell, family members can be summoned after confession by using it).  Afterward, the Eucharist is given as it usually is outside of Mass, but the sick person, if possible, says the "Confiteor" and the "Domine non sum dignus" with the priest.


Confíteor Deo omnipoténti, beátæ Maríæ semper Vírgini, beáto Michaéli Archángelo, beáto Joanni Baptístæ, sanctis Apóstolis Petro et Paulo, ómnibus Sanctis, et tibi, Pater: quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa [strike breast] , mea culpa [strike breast] , mea máxima culpa [strike breast]. Ideo precor beátam Maríam semper Vírginem, beátum Michaélem Archángelum, beátum Joánnem Baptístam, sanctos Apóstolos Petrum et Paulum, omnes Sanctos, et te, Pater, oráre pro me ad Dóminum Deum nostrum. [the priest then says the Misereátur]


I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you Father, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word and deed: through my fault [strike breast], through my fault [strike breast], through my most grievous fault [strike breast]. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me. [the priest then says the Misereátur]

Dómine, non sum dignus

Dómine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur ánima mea.

Dómine, non sum dignus

Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

The priest will then offer the Eucharist. Then he makes the Sign of the Cross over the sick person, either with the Blessed Sacrament or with his hands.

The dish of water the priest uses to purify his fingers should not be thrown away like ordinary water; it should be poured onto the Earth or given to the sick person to drink.

Other helps for the sick

Other means of helping the sick include:  

Abdominal problems St. Elmo (Erasmus)
Addiction St. Maximilian Kolbe
Alcoholism St. John of God
Age-related disease St. Anthony of Padua
St. Swithbert
Appendicitis St. Erasmus
Arm problems St. Amelia (Amalberga)
Arthritis St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
Bacterial infection St. Agrippina
Back pain St. Margaret of Antioch
Blindness St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Lucy
Blood diseases, clotting
St. Januarius (San Gennaro)
Breast disease St. Agatha
Broken bones St. Drogo, St. Stanislaus Kostka
Burns St. John the Evangelist
Cancer St. Peregrine Laziosi
Chest problems St. Bernadine of Siena
Childbirth St. Anne, Our Lady ("Madonna del Parto," or "Our Lady of Childbirth"), St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Elmo (Erasmus), St. Gerard Majella, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Raymond Nonnantus
Chorea St. Vitus (San Vito)
Contagious diseases St. Roch
Cough St. Blaise
Cramps St. Maurice
Deafness St. Francis de Sales
Death a holy and happy death: St. Joseph, St. Benedict; against temptation at the time of death: St. Cyriacus; against sudden death: St. Barbara, St. Christopher, St. Catherine of Alexandria
Depression St. Dymphna
Drug addiction St. Maximilian Kolbe
Dying St. Joseph
Dysentery St. Lucy, St. Polycarp of Smyrna
Earache St. Cornelius
Epilepsy & fainting St. Vitus, St. Dymphna, St. Christopher, St. Valentine, St. Vibiana, St. John Chrysostom, St. Giles
Eye conditions St. Lucy, St Cyriacus
Feet Conditions St. Peter
Fever St. Barbara, St. Genevieve, St. Peter, St. Hugh
Gallstones St. Benedict
Gout St. Maurice
Hangovers St. Vibiana
Headache St. Denis, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Vibiana, St. Stephen the Deacon, St. Thomas a Becket, St. Achatius
Head injury St. John Licci, St. Stephen the Deacon, St. Thomas a Becket
Heart problems St. John of God
Hemorrhage St. Lucy
Hernia SS. Cosmas and Damian
Herpes St. George
Infection St. Agrippina
Infertility St. Gerard Majella, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Anne, Mary (especially under her title of Maria Bambina)
Inflammatory diseases St. Benedict
Intestinal & stomach diseases St. Charles Borromeo, St. Erasmus (St. Elmo)
Invalids St. Roch
Insect bites St. Mark the Apostle
Kidney diseases St. Margaret of Antioch
Kidney stones St. Alban of Mainz
Knee problems St. Roch
Leg problems St. Servatius, St. Roch
Leprosy St. Lazarus
Liver disease St. Erasmus (St. Elmo)
Loss of milk for nursing St. Margaret of Antioch
Lumbago St. Lawrence
Lung problems St. Bernardine of Siena
Mental disability St. Joseph of Cupertino
Mental illness St. Dymphna, St. Vibiana
Neck stiffness St. Ursicinus of Saint-Ursanne
Neuralgia St. Ubaldus Baldassini
Neurological diseases Bartholomew the Apostle, St. Dymphna
Nightmares St. Raphael the Archangel
Open sores St. Peregrine
Pain St. Madron
Paralysis St. Wolfgang
Plagues, pandemics
St. Roch, St. Rosalia, St. Sebastian, St. Christopher, St. Giles, St. Corona
Poison or Venom
St. John the Evangelist, St. Vitus
Polio St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Pregnancy, safe St. Gerard Majella, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Joseph, St. Anne, St. Margaret of Antioch, St. Elizabeth
Rabies St. Walburga
Rheumatism St. Alphonsus Liguori
Seasickness St. Erasmus
Sickness in general St. Raphael, St. Roch (San Rocco), Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Pompeii
Skin diseases St. Anthony of the Desert (i.e., Anthony the Abbot)
Smallpox St. Matthias
Snakebites St. Patrick, St. Hilary of Poitiers, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Vitus, St. Dominic di Sora, St. John the Evangelist
Spinal conditions St. Alphonsus Liguouri
Stomach problems St. Erasmus
Sterility St. Anthony of Padua; St. Gerard Majella; St. Felicity is invoked to have a male child in particular; Maria Bambina is invoked by couples trying to conceive
Stroke St. Andrew Avellino
Sudden death, against St. Barbara
Surgical procedures St. Luke the Evangelist
Throat diseases St. Blaise, St. Ignatius of Antioch
Toothache St. Apollonia, St. Dominic di Sora
Tuberculosis St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Pantaleon
Venereal diseases St. Fiacre
Whooping cough St. Walburga, St. Blaise
Wounds St. Rita of Cascia
Sickness in general St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Gerard Majella, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Roch, St. John of God, St. Camillus of Lellis, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Lydwina of Schiedam, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Maria Mazzarello
Desperate or "impossible" causes St. Jude, St. Rita of Cascia
...and for those who care for the sick 
Nurses St. John of God, St. Agatha, St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Camillus of Lellis, St. Catherine of Siena
Midwives, obstetricians St. Brigid of Ireland, St. Raymund Nonnatus, St. Margaret of Cortona
Doctors and surgeons St. Luke, SS. Cosmas and Damian, St. Pantaleon, St. Raphael the Archangel
Hospital workers St. John of God, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Camillus
Hospital administrators St. Basil the Great, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Public Health Workers St. Martin de Porres
Pharmacists St. James the Less

A bit of Trivia

Almost all cultures have some ritually offered words for someone who sneezes -- the ancient Greeks, the American Indians, the rabbinical Jews, Asians, etc. Many of these groups (Talmudic Jews included) believed that sneezes could be mortal, that the soul could leave the body through the mouth during a sneeze. It is Pope St. Gregory the Great, however, whom we have to thank for the practice of saying "God bless you" after someone sneezes. He was Pope during a time when Rome was ravaged by a certain pestilence, the symptoms of which were sneezing and yawning. In A.D. 600, he decreed that when someone sneezes, one should respond with "God bless you" to ask God's blessings for the person's health, and that when a person yawns, the Sign of the Cross should be made on his mouth.

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