Penance, Anointing, and Viaticum celebrated together is the first exceptional circumstance treated in Chapter VIII of the Pastoral Care Rites. Let’s start reading the three-section introduction:
236. This rite has been provided for use when sudden illness, an accident, or some other cause has placed one of the faithful in danger of death. It makes possible the reception of the three sacraments of penance, anointing, and viaticum in a single celebration. It is not only for use at the point of death, but even possibly a day or so before when time or the condition of the dying person will not allow a more developed celebration of these sacraments over a period of time. In its pastoral ministry the Church always seeks to be as complete as possible, and with this continuous rite those who are in danger of death are prepared to face it sustained by all the spiritual means available to the Church.
The Church is careful that the final hours or few days of a person’s life is not crammed with sacraments to the point where it seems less than serious or prayerful. I have not witnessed these three sacraments celebrated in one liturgy, but I would suppose the presider walks a knife’s edge in avoiding a slightly rushed utilitarianism and a too-slow prayerful pace. In the next post, we’ll see how the choices are trimmed if there is time for only two sacraments, or one.
It should be noted that the arbitrary or personal preferences of the priest are not taken into account in these “exceptional circumstances.” The rite states the strong preference for a “developed” celebration, which would include the appropriate participation of the person, family, and faith community in aspects of these three sacraments–ground already covered in our earlier posts on the PCS.