PCS 162-163: The Ministries of Viaticum

The Introduction to Pastoral Care of the Dying continues in these two sections with a brief mention of the ministries, both clerical and lay.

The pastoral role of the priest is coordination of the minsitry to the dying and catechesis on the rites:

162. Priests with pastoral responsibilities are to direct the efforts of the family and friends as well as other ministers of the local Church in the care of the dying. They should ensure that all are familiar with the rites provided here.

Here is an aside that outlines the lingo of ministers in the rite: 

The words “priest,” “deacon,” and “minister” are used advisedly. Only in those rites which must be celebrated by a priest is the word “priest” used in the rubrics (that is, the sacrament of penance, the sacrament of anointing of the sick, the celebration of viaticum within Mass). Whenever it is clear that, in the absence of a priest, a deacon may preside at a particular rite, the words “priest or deacon” are used in the rubrics. Whenever another minister is permitted to celebrate a rite in the absence of a priest or deacon, the word “minister” is used in the rubrics, even though in many cases the rite will be celebrate by a priest or deacon.

163. The Christian community has a continuing responsibility to pray for and with the person who is dying. Through its sacramental ministry to the dying the community helps Christians to embrace death in mysterious union with the crucified and risen Lord, who awaits them in the fullness of life.

These distinctions are important. The rite informs us that clergy and laity share in a pastoral ministry to the dying. The ordained are responsible for ordering the ministry and presidency at the sacramental rites. The lay role is more than just praying for the dying. Note that in PCS 163 the community participates in the sacramental ministry. This is more than covering for an absent priest when the rites provide for it. The community is responsible for a prayerful presence with the person facing death. What does this mean? We shouldn’t have to scratch our heads on it: daily Communion, daily readings with the Word, gestures of compassion toward the family, caring for details of life. Even when personal presence isn’t needed on a large scale, contact by e-mail, phone, and letter would seem important for any and all parishioners in reaching out to the dying person and the loved ones.


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.

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