Pastoral care of the sick: viaticum


(Editor’s note: Deacon Frank Agnoli presents the 12th in his series of articles on the healing sacraments. He is director of liturgy and of deacon formation for the Davenport Diocese.)
Last time, we talked about pastoral care to the sick and focused on the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. In that article, I mentioned that the primary sacrament for the dying is not anointing, but viaticum: holy Communion as bread for the journey from this life to the next.
Part II of the ritual book “Pastoral Care of the Sick” (PCS) provides numerous resources for ministering to the dying and their loved ones. For example, the “Commendation of the Dying” provides short scriptural texts, litanies and prayers to accompany the dying in their last moments. Prayers are also provided for those moments after death, especially if this is the first time that a minister could be present (sacraments are not celebrated for the dead; so it is inappropriate to anoint or baptize someone who has already died). Rites are provided for initiation of the dying, as well as for ministering to a dying child and his or her family.

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