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Christian - Roman Catholic

Daily prayer and Worship

According to a person's needs, various religious and spiritual needs may be expressed, which may include some of the following:

To attend Mass:

All Catholics are obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and certain Holy Days. In reality, though not all keep this practice, it will be very much part of their understanding and outlook. Many patients and their relatives, even if they do not practise their faith on a regular basis, like to attend Mass in the Hospital chapel / Place of Worship on Sundays and Holy Days.

To receive Holy Communion:

If a patient is not well enough to attend the Mass, Holy Communion, consecrated at Mass, can be brought by a Chaplain or Lay Eucharistic Minister to the patient at their bedside.

To receive a blessing or visit from the Chaplain:

If someone is not well enough to receive Holy Communion, or does not practise their faith, a prayer of blessing can be given. On some occasions a visit from the Chaplain in which they are able to offer counsel and support to patients and relatives is often a source of great comfort.

To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession):

Often Catholic patients may wish to see the Priest-Chaplain to celebrate this Sacrament in which they confess their sins and worries in total confidence. The Priest then offers counsel and support and prays the prayer of God's forgiveness (absolution).

To celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick:

In the case of serious illness, major surgery, grave concern of patients' relatives, the Priest-Chaplain may perform this sacrament. It involves a short reading from the Bible, the Priest laying his hands on the sick person's head, and anointing them on the forehead and palms of the hands with holy oil, and then praying for the person. This is a special prayer for healing, help and strength at a difficult time.

To help with prayer:

On occasions, Chaplains are asked for items to help with personal prayer; for example, a copy of the Bible, a prayer book, Rosary beads, or prayer cards. Although there is no obligation to set prayer (except for Clergy and Religious) people are encouraged to adopt some form of personal prayer.

Chaplains are sometimes asked to help people with prayer. Chaplains are sometimes asked to help people with an appropriate style of prayer for their time in hospital; In general practice, some of these Sacraments, Blessings and Prayers are often performed as one act.

For example, the Sacraments of Forgiveness (absolution), Anointing the Sick and Holy Communion are often celebrated together.

Baptism and Confirmation are carried out together. Catholic patients who have married outside the Church's discipline often ask the Chaplain's help in putting their marriages right in the eyes of the Church.

Holy Books

The Holy Book is the Bible, a combination of scriptures shared with the Jewish faith (Old Testament), and the collection of Gospels and Epistles specific to Christian faith (New Testament). The Gideons provide Christian scriptures at every bedside (New Testament and Psalms).

Holy Days and Festivals

In common with all major Christian denominations, the Roman Catholic Liturgical Year starts with the season of Advent in late November or early December. This is four weeks of preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas.

There then follows the two weeks of Christmastide celebrating the coming of Christ. In late February or early March the season of Lent begins. This is a period of forty days when the fast and prayer of Christ in the desert before his crucifixion is remembered.

Then follows Holy Week, in which the events of the Last Supper, the suffering, death and burial and the Resurrection of Christ are called to mind. Following on from this there are fifty days of rejoicing in Eastertide, culminating in the Feast of Ascension and Pentecost (Whitsun) which recall Christ's ascent to heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

During the rest of the year (known as "Ordinary Time") the Liturgy encourages the faithful to live the life of Christ in their daily lives.

Diet and Hygiene

On Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent and on Good Friday, the day of Christ's crucifixion, Catholics are bound to fasting and abstinence. It is also expected that some form of penance be undertaken each Friday of the year.

There is also an obligation to fast for one hour before receiving Holy Communion. It should be noted that when someone is in hospital they are dispensed from all obligations to fasting or penitential practice.

Gender Issues

Roman Catholic Christianity preserves an all male priesthood. This is supported by Religious Sisters and Lay Volunteers.


Chaplains will regularly visit particular patients and those who request a visit. Such visits can be a comfort to practising and non-practising patients alike.

Patients talk to Chaplains about a range of subjects not only religious. Eucharistic Lay Ministers will visit wards and give Holy Communion to patients who request it.

Talking to the Chaplain can help spiritual distress and the following indications to spiritual distress may help staff to involve the Chaplain appropriately: -

  1. Sense of hopelessness/meaninglessness. The patient becomes apathetic or withdrawn.
  2. Intense suffering. The patient asks "Why me?"
  3. Sense of the absence of God/loss of faith/giving up on religion.
  4. Anger towards God/religion/clergy and the church.
  5. Sense of deep-seated guilt or shame.
  6. Unresolved feelings about death.


In cases when a child is seriously ill the parents may wish the Chaplain to celebrate Baptism for the child. In this action, water is poured over the child's head whilst invoking the name of God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. This is an act of reception into the Church.

On some occasions an older person may request the Sacrament of Baptism and initiation into the Church. In this situation the Sacrament of Confirmation (the next stage of initiation) can also be performed.

When a child has died before Baptism, or has died through stillbirth, miscarriage, or any other reason the Chaplain may be asked to perform a Ceremony of Blessing and Naming to offer comfort and support for the family.


As death approaches, the patient (if able to ask) or their relatives may request a Chaplain to pray the Prayers for the Dying, commending the sick person to God, assuring them and their relatives of God's love, care and mercy.

If the person has died the Chaplain will pray the prayers for the Dead, as an assurance of God's care for the one who has died, and to give comfort and peace to the relatives.

Sometimes Catholics of an older tradition, or those who are not too involved in the Church will ask for a Priest-Chaplain to perform "the Last Rites" for a seriously ill relative.

There is actually no ceremony of this name, and generally what people are requesting is a 'rite of passage' that could involve the Sacrament of the Sick, the Prayers for the Dying or the Prayers for the Dead.

There is a misunderstanding among some Catholics that the Priest should be called at the very last moment. Catholic teaching encourages the participation of the Church at all stages of illness and all those who have care of the Catholic patients should assure them that the Chaplain is there to offer help and support.


This role is often carried out by different types of people; in some hospitals there is a full or part-time 'Priest-Chaplain' appointed by the Trust and the Church to minister to the needs of Roman Catholic patients, relatives and staff.

In other places there will be a 'Sister-Chaplain' - a Religious Sister (Nun) appointed to this role. Sometimes there will be a Priest and Sister, or just one or the other.

Many hospital Chaplaincies are supported by Lay Volunteers who act as Eucharistic Ministers, (lay people who bring Holy Communion, consecrated by the Priest at Mass, to the sick). Lay people also help as ward visitors.

The Roman Catholic Chaplain generally works closely with Hospital Chaplains of other denominations, and with other members of hospital staff. Support is also offered to patients' relatives and staff of other Christian denominations and other religions with their religious representatives.

Other Nationalities

Patients of other nationalities (Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Italians etc.) may be attended to by the Catholic Chaplain as the sacraments are validly given by any Catholic ordained priest.

If there are language problems, as in the requirements of confession, then the appropriate priest will be contacted. In cases of emergency, regardless of nationality, the Catholic Chaplain must be contacted as soon as possible.

The Roman Catholic Chaplain can be contacted via the duty chaplain on 01274 542200.