She seems to be doing okay, although very tired.
As she was talking about his last hours and the family's vigil at the hospital she told me that there was an Episcopal chaplain who was sweet and trying very hard to be helpful to this big Catholic family.
However, when her mother asked the chaplain to pray the 23rd Psalm she didn't know it.
Pastoral failure can come in so many forms.
Sometimes it comes when we're unintentionally insensitive, or even intentionally so. Sometimes pastoral failure occurs because we're just too burned out or angry or confused or otherwise occupied to be the loving presence we ought to be.
And sometimes it occurs because we have failed to acquaint ourselves with ancient words of comfort that have consoled generation unto generation.
I should think that every chaplain -- no matter what their persuasion -- should know the 23rd Psalm. For the sake of this argument, it doesn't really matter that the 23rd Psalm gained ascendancy in the schmaltzy Victoria era. The point is, it's one of the Greatest Hits in the Western world, and every single one of us doing ministry in a religiously pluralistic context the Western world should know it. Even if you occasionally say "Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death" by mistake instead of "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," you should know it. By heart.
The Lord's Prayer is another one to commit to memory. Unless you're a rabbi or an imam, in which case you can certainly sit that one out.
But everyone who can say it without offending their own god's commandments or violating the integrity of their religious calling should have that one in their chaplain's goody bag, too. Why? Because when people are suffering and can be consoled by these prayers, it's not your business to inform them that your personal theology is in opposition to words like "Lord" and to concepts like locating God in a distant "heaven." Save the exegesis for some other time. Shut up and pray.