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David Amess and the Grace of Last Rites

For the Catholic, eternity is important, and therefore so are the final moments of earthly life. The last rites prepare and strengthen the soul for these final moments, and usually involve sacramental confession and absolution, the anointing of the dying body, and the final reception of the Eucharist (the Viaticum—which literally means “with you on the way”). These rites reflect the mercy of God and his love for each and every individual as well as his desire for them to share in the beatific vision.

On October 15, reports began to emerge that Sir David Amess had been stabbed—allegedly several times—while holding his weekly “surgery” meeting with constituents in a Methodist church hall in Leigh-on-Sea. Sir David knew the leaders of every religious community that practices in the Southend West constituency. Among them was Fr. Jeffrey Woolnough, the priest of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in the town—a parish in the care of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Fr. Woolnough drove to the scene and tried to gain access to offer the last rites in case Sir David was in danger of death, as turned out to be the case. Police on the spot refused him access, however, saying it was a crime scene.

Canon law effectively grants Catholics a right to receive the sacraments in the appropriate circumstances. Clashes between the temporal and spiritual order are not unheard of—least of all in England, where Sir David was attacked some twenty-five miles (as the crow flies) from the shrine of St. Thomas the Martyr at Canterbury.

Read more at First Things

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