October 6, 2023
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6.00 Inches (US)
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v2.1 Reference

Ministry to the Sick and Dying in the Late Medieval Church

The focus of this volume is on ministry to the sick and dying in the later Middle Ages, especially providing them with the sacraments. Medieval writers linked illness to sin and its forgiveness. The priest, as physician of souls, was expected to heal the soul, preparing it for the hereafter. His ministry might also effect healing of bodies, when that healing did not endanger the soul. This book treats how a priest prepared to visit sick persons and went to them in procession with the Eucharist and oil of the sick. The priest was to comfort the patient and, if death was imminent, prepare the soul for the hereafter. Canon law, theology, and ritual sources are employed. Three sacraments, penance, viaticum, (final communion) and extreme unction (anointing of the sick) are treated in detail. Sickbed confession was designed to forgive the ailing person's mortal sins. A priest could absolve a dying person of all sins, even those reserved to a bishop or the pope. Viaticum was to strengthen a suffering Christian for life's last conflict, that between angels and demons for the soul of the dying person. The deathbed thus was a spiritual battlefield. Extreme unction was reserved for those in danger of death, relieving the soul of venial sins or "the remains of sin," even after confession and absolution. The commendatio animae (commendation of the soul) used with the dying was to usher the soul into the afterlife. Many works have been written about attitudes toward death, dying, and the afterlife in the Middle Ages. Likewise, there is a good deal of literature about individual sacraments. This study aims at bridging between these literatures, with a focus on the priest and parishioner in both theory and practice at the sickbed.

About the Author

Thomas Izbicki is Librarian emeritus at Rutgers University.


"This is a learned and well-written volume by a highly experienced scholar whose research in both primary and secondary sources is exceptionally wide, deep, and up-to-date. The geographical breadth and textual depth of this survey, which includes not only major and less well-known figures and texts on canon law and theology but also sermons, manuals for preachers, legislation of church councils and synods, visitation records, rulings of individual prelates, saints' lives and more, gives this study a range that puts it in a class of its own, with a coverage not found in previous treatments of its subject."—Marcia Colish , author of Faith, Fiction, and Force in Medieval Baptism Debates

"Izbicki provides a precise and moving portrait of the late medieval pastoral approach to suffering and pain on the threshold between earthly death and, it was hoped, eternal life. He has drawn from quite a range of sources—liturgy and ritual, theology and scripture, and especially canon law—to illustrate vividly the pastoral ministry of care for the sick and dying in the late Middle Ages."—Christopher M. Bellitto, Kean University

"Izbicki gives an exceptionally thorough review of medieval texts relating to care for the sick and dying. He takes into account an impressive range of canonical material, pastoral manuals, and other sources. Running through the chapters is the underlying question of the relationship, practical as well as rhetorical, between sickness and sin. Anyone working in this field will wish to make use of this helpfully far-reaching compendium."—Richard Kieckhefer, Northwestern University

"Izbicki's careful analysis of writings by many types of churchmen over centuries, contributes an important chapter to our understanding of medieval attitudes and experiences around death, care, and the sacred."—Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London

9780813237350 : ministry-to-the-sick-and-dying-in-the-late-medieval-church-izbicki
October 6, 2023
$75.00 USD

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The Church, the Councils, and Reform

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