I just read on the wires that Terri Schiavo was given communion, and I’m glad to hear it.
This is from an Associated Press account, by Mike Schneider:
Schiavo’s husband, who a day earlier denied a request from his wife’s parents that she be given communion, granted permission Sunday to offer the sacrament.
The Rev. Thaddeus Malanowski said he gave Schiavo a drop of wine on her tongue but could not give her a fleck of bread because her tongue was dry.
We’ve heard a lot about Ms. Schaivo’s medical state, and I am convinced that she does not have what we would understand as consciousness. I wouldn’t want to be treated or nourished if I were in that state, and Mr. Schaivo is doing the right thing. He is taking terrible lumps from people, including her parents, who fear the tomb and its power. Ms. Schaivo is entombed in flesh: “trapped” is how I’ve heard people in daily conversation describe her state.
Today is Easter, and “Christ is risen from the dead, and by His death He has trampled upon death and has given life to those who are in the tombs!”
We’ve considered Ms. Schaivo legally, but Christians need to remember her as one of the faithful, too. I don’t have a notion of her religious participation before her brain injury, and ideas of “good Christians” and “bad Christians” have always struck me as self-serving and moot, so enough to say she’s a member of the Body, which can be justly assumed from the context of the story. Christians ought to remember this when we pray: we bear the prayers of those who cannot pray for themselves, whether it be from injury, illness, extreme youth, persecution, or other incapacity. Someone will be praying for you too when you cannot.
Since the Body of Christ is not bound by death — indeed, we have no reason to believe that our ideas of consciousness extend past the grave — her injury is not an impediment to receiving appropriate pastoral care and the sacraments. Indeed, even in death her body will be regarded with care; so universal is this in human societies that it points to an indwelling religious impulse in human beings.
That we can care for one another spiritually, and that we have special repsonsibilities (spiritual and physical) for vulnerable and fragile persons has lead me back to accepting infant baptism and the communion of the unresponsive.
As for volition, well, the child may profess Christian faith or may not. Proper formation and a lively, sane witness come into play. But when I was waffling around and near Christianity, I always knew I had my Christian baptism (in toddlerhood; my brother was the infant and we were “done” together) to stand on.
As for Ms. Schaivo’s spiritual will, here we are left to trust that the right thing was done. We have no access to her opinions, or what they were moments before her heart stopped. But as much as I would not want to be nourished artificially, I also would want all the ministrations and preparations for a holy and peaceful death.
After that, all the care is God’s.