PCS 165-166: Commendation & Prayers

The rite is careful to separate the rites that are designed for people near death and for those who have already died.

In an emergency viaticum may be followed by the prayers of commendation (PCS 165) but these rituals are not at all one and the same thing.

165. The second chapter of Part II contains a collection of prayers for the spiritual comfort of the Christian who is close to death. These prayers are traditionally called the commendation of the dying to God and are to be used according to the circumstances of each case.


166. A chapter has also been provided to assist a minister who has been called to attend to a person who is already dead. A priest is not to administer the sacrament of anointing. Instead, he should pray for the dead person, using prayers such as those which appear in this chapter. He may find it necessary to explain to the family of the person who is dead that sacraments are celebrated for the living, not for the dead, and that the dead are effectively helped by the prayer of the living.

If a person has already died, the celebration of the sacraments is out of the question, not from any sense of cruelty or insensitivity, but by the simple definition of the sacrament as a grace-filled experience for the recipient.

One might argue in turn, that these pastoral care rites have also made a strong case for the comfort of the family and friends, not to mention the parish community. Does compassion have any role in these rites? Of course it does.

As we look at the rubrics and texts further in the coming months, we’ll see the threefold approach of sacraments/commendation/prayers for the dead. Each has its own purpose. All include the comfort of the loved ones and other companions.

The sacraments celebrate Christ’s presence for the living person in the context of a Christian community. The commendation rites, as we will see in PCS 212-220, offer a Scripture-based ritual of comfort and confidence for the believer’s final moments. In the prayers for the dead (PCS 221-231) the focus is on the survivors’ prayers for their loved one. Nothing is done “to” or “for” the body of the deceased, except, perhaps, sprinkling with holy water.



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.

2 Responses to PCS 165-166: Commendation & Prayers

  1. FrMichael says:

    Then we have the debate about when the soul leaves the body, a philosophical question among priests that doesn’t necessarily follow the conservative/progressive line.

    Personally, I’m of the “tie goes to the runner” variety: if there is some warmth left in the body I’ll anoint.

  2. I think that the soul never leaves the body.

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