PCS 236: Penance, Anointing, Viaticum Intro

Penance, Anointing, and Viaticum celebrated together is the first exceptional circumstance treated in Chapter VIII of the Pastoral Care Rites. Let’s start reading the three-section introduction:

236. This rite has been provided for use when sudden illness, an accident, or some other cause has placed one of the faithful in danger of death. It makes possible the reception of the three sacraments of penance, anointing, and viaticum in a single celebration. It is not only for use at the point of death, but even possibly a day or so before when time or the condition of the dying person will not allow a more developed celebration of these sacraments over a period of time. In its pastoral ministry the Church always seeks to be as complete as possible, and with this continuous rite those who are in danger of death are prepared to face it sustained by all the spiritual means available to the Church.

The Church is careful that the final hours or few days of a person’s life is not crammed with sacraments to the point where it seems less than serious or prayerful. I have not witnessed these three sacraments celebrated in one liturgy, but I would suppose the presider walks a knife’s edge in avoiding a slightly rushed utilitarianism and a too-slow prayerful pace. In the next post, we’ll see how the choices are trimmed if there is time for only two sacraments, or one.

It should be noted that the arbitrary or personal preferences of the priest are not taken into account in these “exceptional circumstances.” The rite states the strong preference for a “developed” celebration, which would include the appropriate participation of the person, family, and faith community in aspects of these three sacraments–ground already covered in our earlier posts on the PCS.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to PCS 236: Penance, Anointing, Viaticum Intro

  1. FrMichael says:

    The occasions of the stereotypical rushed anointing– priest comes in, patient is anointed, patient dies a second later– are few and far between. Far more common is rushing is caused by trying to anoint someone being operated upon in the OR after emergency admittance. The doctors naturally aren’t keen on having another body in the room, so it’s a mini-anointing (though sacramentally valid) in under a couple minutes.

    Most of the time, there is plenty of time to fully conduct these rites and give a running explanation of the rites along with them, if needed. And given the vast number of poorly catechized Catholics, explanations are usually needed.

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