Divine Worship


Viaticum and Prayer for the Dying

Pastoral Notes - Anointing of the Sick


Viaticum is the proper sacrament of the dying. It is the completion and reaffirmation of Christian life on earth. When death is close, arrangements should be made to receive viaticum.

The ideal is to receive viaticum within the celebration of the Eucharist. When, because of institutional limitations, this is not possible, viaticum outside Mass is appropriate. Both rites are found in Chapter V of Pastoral Care of the Sick.

A distinctive feature of the celebration of viaticum is the renewal of the baptismal profession of faith by the dying person. At the conclusion of the penitential rite the 'Apostolic Pardon' may be given. A special form for administering communion as viaticum is provided. The dying person and all Catholics present may receive Holy Communion under both kinds. The sick and dying who are unable to receive under the form of bread may receive under the form of wine alone. If the process of dying lasts several days, the Eucharist may be given as viaticum on successive days.

Through prayers such as the 'Commendation of the Dying,' the Church sustains the dying person in union with the Lord. These may be led by others who have been prepared for this ministry in the absence of a priest or deacon.

The concrete details of celebrating viaticum can be a challenge to pastoral ministers, particularly in institutional settings. However, the central place of viaticum in pastoral care for the dying urges us to seek ways to make this sacrament available to as many dying Catholics as possible.