PCS 26-29: Viaticum

The final sacramental celebration for the Catholic believer is not, as we now know, anointing. Viaticum is for the dying, and this is part of the Church’s liturgy for the pastoral care of the sick:


26 When in their passage from this life Christians are strengthened by the body and blood of Christ in viaticum, they have the pledge of the resurrection that the Lord promised: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:54).

First, the Church states a preference for viaticum during Mass, particularly that the dying person may receive the more perfect sign of communion under both kinds. The dying person may be brought to church for Mass, it would seem. The possibility of celebrating Mass in a home or care facility is also raised in this circumstance:


When possible, viaticum should be received within Mass so that the sick person may receive communion under both kinds. Communion received as viaticum should be considered a special sign of participation in the mystery which is celebrated in the eucharist: the mystery of the death of the Lord and his passage to the Father. (See Eucharisticum mysterium 36, 39, 41; Paul VI, Motu Proprio Pastorale munus, 30 November 1963, [I] no. 7: AAS 56 (1964) 7; CIC)

Provision must be made sometimes for communion to be given as the Precious Blood for people who may be unable to ingest solid food. Viaticum is not to be delayed to the moment of death: 


27 All baptized Christians who are able to receive commun­ion are bound to receive viaticum by reason of the precept to receive communion when in danger of death from any cause. Priests with pastoral responsibility must see that the celebration of this sacrament is not delayed, but that the faithful are nour­ished by it while still in full possession of their faculties. (See Eucharisticum mysterium 39)

A renewal of baptismal promises should be part of the rite:



28 It is also desirable that during the celebration of viaticum, Christians renew the faith professed at their baptism, by which they became adopted children of God and coheirs of the prom­ise of eternal life.

A priest should celebrate the sacrament:


29 The ordinary ministers of viaticum are the pastor and his assistants, the priest who is responsible for the sick in hospitals, and the superior of a clerical religious institute. In case of necessity, any other priest with at least the presumed permis­sion of the competent minister may give viaticum.

But a deacon or lay person, may serve, with the appropriate ritual adjustments:


If no priest is available, viaticum may be brought to the sick by a deacon or by another member of the faithful, either a man or a woman, who by the authority of the Apostolic See has been duly appointed by the bishop to give the eucharist to the faithful. In this case, a deacon follows the rite prescribed in the ritual; other ministers use the rite they ordinarily follow for dis­tributing communion, but with the special words given in the ritual for the rite for viaticum (no. 207).

Note that when a lay person uses this rite, it is not just the rite of bringing communion to the sick, but there is an addition of appropriate words. Y’all have been silent these past few days on PCS. No comments on the pastoral or even controversial pieces?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Care of the Sick, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to PCS 26-29: Viaticum

  1. Anne says:

    “First, the Church states a preference for viaticum during Mass, particularly that the dying person may receive the more perfect sign of communion under both kinds.”

    I didn’t know this. Viaticum is usually at the hospital or hospice care facility and sometimes at home.

  2. Liam says:

    Of course, this instructional preference may presuppose that the dominant experience of hospitals in Catholic countries in Europe is that they are Catholic institutions, with a chapel suitable for holding Mass. Not uncommon in the US, of course, but very dominant in places like Italy, Spain, et cet.

  3. Tony says:

    Interesting that you’ve been bringing up this particular series as my dad lay dying. It has been very instructional. Thank you.

    In extremis, lay people have to obligation to rightfully assume roles usually performed by ordained priests.

    I have no problem at all with lay people assuming roles like this when they are absolutely required, but not prohibited. In an emergency situation, anyone can baptize, even an atheist, but I wouldn’t want lay people performing baptisms on a regular basis in ordinary circumstances.

    Since my dad is not expected to last out the day, I made sure my mother called the priest to administer last rites.

  4. m.a. says:

    What are the special words given in the ritual for the lay person to use?

    I take communion to the sick and shut-ins in my parish and have taken communion to hospitalized patients also.

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