Call 911 of course.
Calling 911 in the event of an emergency is a procedure I have drilled into the heads of my children since they were old enough to talk. It is second nature to most of us that this is the first thing we should do in the event of an emergency, fire, crime, poisoning or other calamity. We call 911 to quickly alert those who are in a position to help us that we are in trouble and first responders are dispatched immediately to come to our aid. The system is universal and virtually foolproof -but is it enough?
As human persons we are comprised of both temporal and spiritual components. Calling 911 addresses the temporal side of an emergency - we need to have procedures that address the spiritual side of the emergency.
Spiritual Emergency Procedures
You may be thinking - what on earth would constitute a spiritual emergency? Aren't spiritual issues something we can just wait until Sunday Mass or our next confession to take care of?. I would submit to you that anything that qualifies as a temporal emergency, should also be addressed as a spiritual emergency.
Don't merely call 911 in an emergency - call also upon the Lord, the Blessed Mother, the Communion of Saints and the Heavenly Hosts of Angels - our supernatural first responders.
Here are a few circumstances that always get my family and I marshaling up the help of Heaven with short prayers:
- The sound of a siren.
- The sight of a hearse.
- Passing a hospital or funeral home
- Turning onto the campus of a church (we live in the 'burbs) - you can do this when you pass a church
- Witnessing someone with a physical, emotional or spiritual disability.
- Finding ourselves in a situation that is difficult, uncomfortable or unsafe.
- Beginning a long car ride.
- Learning of a friend (or even a stranger) struggling with an issue or in need of intercession.
- Reading about a tragedy in the news.
In these situations, our family may pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary or a Prayer to St. Michael along with a request in our own words for the Lord's assistance and presence.
Some situations in life are so difficult and challenging that they require more than a quick "prayer". A serious accident or illness, the death of a loved one, loss of a job, addictions and more require persistent prayer and trust in the Lord for his help and the grace to endure the cross. One of my favorite forms of persistent prayer is Blessed Mother Teresa's Emergency Novena.
"Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, Yonkers, NY re-counted his first meeting with Mother Teresa in New York. Fr. Andrew has given retreats for the Missionaries of Charity contemplative sisters in the South Bronx on several occasions. On our first meeting, Mother Teresa gave me a rosary and commented that "the Blessed Mother is all over the world bringing people to Her Son." She told me a story stating, "whenever I need a special favor, I do an Express Novena. An Express Novena is 9 Memorares in a row." (source: EWTN)
The Memorare (x9)
The Memorare is a simple prayer acknowledging the graciousness of the Blessed Mother and her steadfast help for her children in need. Relying on her maternal love and mercy, the prayer requests her intercession for our petitions.
The origin of the Memorare is unknown but it is thought to have dated back to the 12th century and is sometimes attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It was made popular by another French priest, Fr. Claude Bernard in the 1600's, who used it extensively in his ministry to the poor and prisoners. (source: Preces-Latinae)
I vividly remember Sister Mary Austin teaching my 4th grade class this beautiful, simple prayer and it has always been a favorite of mine.
Enlist Some Prayer Warriors
As Catholics we don't have to live as lone-rangers. By virtue of our Baptism, we are part of the Body of Christ and we can rely on other members of that Body for prayer and support. It has been a great source of comfort, consolation and encouragement to me to be able to reach out to a few trusted prayer warriors when I need some "back-up prayer" for a particular issue. I know these faithful friends will intercede from their heart for my intentions, as would I for theirs. Being able to support another person with prayers, especially during difficult times, is a source of blessing and a living out of the Jesus's great commandment to love our neighbor. If you don't have your own prayer warriors - enlist one today by asking a friend to be prayer partners and then pray for one another's intentions.
Is This in Your Wallet?
As Catholics, we believe in the power of the sacraments, and in particular the Anointing of the Sick. The Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of healing that can and should be received not only in the case of imminent death, but also whenever there is a serious threat to one's physical health. It is important to make any wishes that you have to receive this sacrament known to your loved ones before you are in any serious danger of death. Too often, Catholics are denied the reception of this sacrament because their loved ones do not know of their desire to receive it, and do not fully recognize or believe in the power of the sacrament.
A good practice is to carry a card in your wallet that specifically states: "I am a Roman Catholic. In case of emergency, please contact a Roman Catholic Priest." If possible, include the phone number of your parish rectory on that card. Your soul is worth it.
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