Rites for the Dying

"The celebration of the Eucharist as Viaticum,
food for the passage through death to eternal life,
is the sacrament proper to the dying Christian.
It is the completion and crown of the Christian life on this earth,
signifying that the Christian follows the Lord to eternal glory
and the banquet of the heavenly kingdom" (n. 175).


Many Catholics confuse the Rites for the Dying with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick. In the Catholic Church, Extreme Unction or the Last Rites is the anointing at the time of death. Since the Second Vatican Council, this sacrament is now called the Anointing of the Sick and has been broadened to offer healing and comfort in times of illness that may not lead to immediate death. 

If you have a loved one in the hospital or at home and near death, the Church offers a variety of rituals to comfort your loved one and your family.

  • Viaticum (from the latin: provision for a journey) is the administration of the Holy Eucharist to those about to die.
  • The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
  • The Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Prayer for the Dying

In these days when Catholics so heavily outnumber our priests, it may be difficult for a priest to quickly respond in a time of need.  While the Sacraments of Anointing and Reconciliation may only be offered by a priest; a deacon or a lay person can offer Viaticum and be with the family offering prayers during grave illness or near death.  The hope of all Catholics is, at the time of death, to be surrounded by loved ones, fellow Catholics and all the angels and saints.  Please remember Sacraments are offered to those who are conscious.  However, our loved ones can be blessed and prayed over at all times.