PCS 189-196 covers the ritual Mass of Viaticum. The assumption is that the priest knows how to conduct the Entrasnce rites. The introduction (PCS 175 ff) has already instructed the priest and any other planners to PCS Part III (PCS 297 and especially 298) for the readings of the Liturgy of the Word. Don’t forget that the dying person and/or family may choose biblical readings not in the Lectionary (PCS 184a) if these have a stronger meaning.
What are these eight sections about? Simply the additions and adaptations to the celebration of Mass. PCS 189 instructs the homilist:
189. After the gospel a brief homily on the sacred text may be given in which the priest explains the meaning and importance of viaticum.
Considering the stress the rite gives to preparation, I would say this “catechetical” homily may be directed to the community, or it would elaborate for the dying person what has already been discussed in the preparations for the Mass.
PCS 190 describes the Baptismal Profession of Faith.
190. If the sick person is to renew his or her baptismal profession of faith, this should be done at the conclusion of the homily. This renewal takes place of the usual profession of faith in the Mass.
The priest gives a brief introduction and then asks the following questions:
… and the Q&A format is used. The ritual does not instruct the dying person alone to respond. I would interpret any baptismal profession to be shared by those believers who are present, not just the dying person.
Where we ordinarily pray the general intercessions, the rite gives the
My brothers and sisters, with one heart, let us call on our Savior Jesus Christ.
You loved us to the very end and gave yourself over to death in order to give us life. For our brother/sister, Lord, we pray:
Lord, hear our prayer.You said to us: “All who eat my flesh and drink my blood will live forever.” For our brother/sister, Lord, we pray: Lord, hear our prayer.You invite us to join in the banquet where pain and sorrow, sadness and separation will be no more. For our brother/sister, Lord, we pray:Lord, hear our prayer.
The style of this prayer is more acclamatory. When we look at the funeral rites we see a similar development. My interpretation is that God naturally knows our needs and wants before we utter them. This litany, and others like it, serve less to “tell” God what to do or what has been done, and more to reinforce the faith of those present.
In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the sign of peace (192) and Communion as Viaticum (193) are described. Form A of the pre-Communion ritual is noteworthy:
Jesus Christ is the food for our journey; he calls us to the heavenly table.
And the response, “Lord I am not worthy …” follows. Form B is the customary “This is the Lamb of God …” and form C is another alternate:
These are God’s holy gifts to his holy people: receive them with thanksgiving.
As with the usual form, A underscores the Eucharist as food. They all emphasize the grace of God in calling people to the sacrament. Immediately upon receiving Communion, or afterward, the priest adds this brief prayer for the dying person:
May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you and lead you to eternal life.
The rite then instructs that others present then receive communion.
PCS 194 provides for the final solemn blessing as we saw in PCS 91. PCS 195 gives the apostolic pardon:
Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come.
May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.
In PCS 196, the deacon or priest dismisses the people.
Whew! That’s a lot to digest. Some general commentary:
The additions to the celebration of Mass are designed to draw attention to the pastoral and spiritual needs of the dying and to the coping loved ones and community without undue interruption of the celebration of Mass. It would make sense that instead of adding the “Litany” of PCS 191 to the customary prayers of the faithful, that it would replace those prayers and focus on the concerns of the laity present.
Words may and should change to reflect the pastoral and spiritual situation at the liturgy. What remains a constant is the style of the prayer and the invitation for those present to respond vocally as they do at other Masses.
The dying person is singled out as a member of a community, not the focus of the rite. Christ remains the aim, as we see in the wording of the prayers. The Litany, for example, begins with Christ and recounts his saving actions on behalf of humanity. The general intercessions, as I hear them composed, do not always strike this balance. In a circumstance of near-death, it would be only human to focus on the person, her or his sufferings, and possibly lose the emphasis on Christ.
And as Liam noted in the comments on the previous PCS thread, the apostolic pardon is a vital part of the pastoral care of the dying. Follow the link in the comment to Fr Z’s post on this from last September. The blogger asked if priests knew of this and were prepared to offer it. It’s a good question: do they?