What alot of lovely people seem to read this blog! Thank you for your supportive messages.
I've been considering last night's experience a bit more, - and I think that actually the family were within their rights as observant RCs, even though it hurt.
For them, it mattered hugely that the Last Rites were conducted by an RC priest.
For them, the sacramental process would not have been complete if it had been conducted by someone who, in their terms, was not a priest at all.
As we all know, a sacrament is "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace" - in this case, the grace of God at work forgiving and welcoming the departed soul.
That will, I'd say, happen regardless of who offers what prayers at the time of death.
So, my role as a priest is to make that process explicit ...naming God, if you like, claiming the ground, reminding everyone of what is actually going on.
And the family, in this case, is already aware of God's involvement,-.so my ministry becomes important mainly as a signifier...but if for them it doesn't carry that significance, then there's no point in thinking wistfully that it ought to. It won't.
Sacraments are effective signs of God's grace at work, they lose their impact if they dont actually point to that for the recipient.
As to the disruptive influence of vibrating phones, unfortunately the relief chaplain only gets called out "out of hours" if there is a huge emergency...so immediate response is part of the deal. We have to agree to be there within the hour, so need to pick up as soon as the call comes in. If it's less urgent, then it waits till the full-time chaplains are on again.
This means we only get the life or death issues - huge responsibility, huge sense of frustration when you cannot meet the need.
But not being able to meet needs is a painful but pressing reality...
I did say I was learning on the job, didn't I?