The pastoral care rites give the minister more guidance on how to proclaim Scriptures and other texts with and to the dying. See what you think:
214. The minister may choose texts from among the prayers, litanies, aspirations, psalms, and readings provided in this chapter, or others may be added. In the selection of these texts, the minister should keep in mind the condition and piety of both the dying person and the members of the family who are present. The prayers are best said in a slow, quiet voice, alternating with periods of silence, If possible, the minister says one of more of the brief prayer formulas with the dying person. These may be softly repeated two or three times.
Commentary: The minister is accorded full flexibility, charged with using what is given, or adding other texts that may be appropriate and more meaningful to the dying person and companions.
Note that the physical condition of the dying person and the piety of all present are sound considerations for the minister.
I recall hearing once that music played for the dying (music thanatology) should adjust its tempo to the rhythm of the dying person’s body, breathing and all. This advice on proclamation strikes me in a similar way, but the experience and awareness needed seem substantial. It certainly goes way beyond just saying the right words. The art and discipline of the musical outreach to the dying has fascinated me, though I’ve never been called upon to provide it.
Repetition and silence: good virtues to commend, but difficult ones to practice.
215. These texts are intended to help the dying person, if still conscious, to face the natural human anxiety about death by imitating Christ in his patient suffering and dying. The Christian will be helped to surmount his or her fear in the hope of heavenly life and resurrection through the power of Christ, who destroyed the power of death by his own dying.
Even if the dying person is not conscious, those who are present will draw consolation from these prayers and come to a better understanding of the paschal character of Christian death. This may be visibly expressed by making the sign of the cross on the forehead of the dying person, who was first signed with the cross at baptism.
This sense of touch is lost somewhat in modern culture. The signing of the forehead would seem laudable even if the dying Christian is conscious.
216. Immediately after death has occurred, all may kneel while one of those present leads the prayers given (in PCS 221-222).
And with this final instruction, the introduction for the commendation of the dying concludes. In the next posts, we’ll look at the shorter and longer Scripture passages, and peek at some of the prayers offered in the rite.