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  • Alexandra Clark | The Daily Knight

Help the Dying with the Last Gifts!

Alexandra Clark | The Daily Knight

The Last Rites can rightly be called the Last Great Gifts of Holy Mother Church. Christ, has truly thought of everything in regard to our salvation and sanctification! From the Sacrament of Baptism, with our birth into the Life of Grace and the adoption as a son of God, to the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, which prepares our final moments before death to which we can have firm hope of Eternal Life and be prepared to face our Just Judge. The wonders of God’s Love has provided everything we need if only we desired it and learn of its great Divine Grace! First, a little clarification is needed to get a better understanding of these wonderful Last Gifts.

Painting of Christ the Divine Physician of the Soul

What are the Last Rites and Extreme Unction?

The Last Rites can be confused with the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. Though the terms are related they do not mean the same thing. Extreme Unction, also known as Anointing of the Sick or Sacrament of the Dying is one of the seven Sacraments consisting in anointing the very sick and dying person. Whereas the Last Rites, are four rites in total with 3 being Sacraments that are applied to a dying soul. The four rites are:

1. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction, or also known as anointing of the sick

2. Holy Confession, which is the Sacrament of Penance

3. Holy Viaticum, which is known as the last Holy Communion, “called the Viaticum by sacred writers, both because it is Spiritual Food by which we are sustained in our pilgrimage through this life, and also because it paves our way to eternal glory and happiness. Wherefore, according to an ancient usage of the Catholic Church, we see that none of the faithful are permitted to die without this Sacrament.” (Council of Trent)

4. The final rite is the Apostolic Blessing, that grants a plenary indulgence which in turn can cancel all Purgatory time. This Apostolic blessing, says Fr. Couture, “is the only one in the whole ritual in which we ask Almighty God to restore the soul to the innocence of its Baptism.” This has been suppressed by Vatican II, more on that later.

Who then can receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction and the Last Rites?

The Catechism of the Council of Trent answers that:

“St. James: Is anyone sick amongst you? (James 5:14). This is also proved by the fact that Extreme Unction was instituted as a remedy not only for the diseases of the soul, but also for those of the body. Now only the sick need a remedy, and therefore this Sacrament is to be administered to those only whose malady is such as to excite apprehensions of approaching death. It is, however, a very grievous sin to defer the Holy Unction until, all hope of recovery being lost, life begins to ebb, and the sick person is fast verging into a state of insensibility. It is obvious that if the Sacrament is administered while consciousness and reason are yet unimpaired, and the mind is capable of eliciting acts of faith and of directing the will to sentiments of piety, a more abundant participation of its graces must be received. Though this heavenly medicine is in itself always salutary, pastors should be careful to apply it when its efficacy can be aided by the piety and devotion of the sick person.”

When death approaches our friends or loved ones it can be a time of confusion, worries, anxiety, and sorrow. Knowing what to do as a Catholic is very important regardless if the soul dying is Catholic or not Catholic. It should be a great comfort to souls to know that there is a way to die well and to have a good death. And this should be prayed for everyday that we die a good death in God's grace.

Too many Catholics and souls in general do not know the great grace God has given in the Last Rites that help us finish the race, that race to Heaven as St. Paul mentions. We say rites because there is more than one beautiful gift given to the soul to help its final chance at reaching Heaven. Through these Rites, if a soul is well disposed, humble and contrite of heart, it can mean accomplishing the race to Heaven in great grace!

Extreme Unction, says the Council of Trent, “is first to be explained; and this the words of St. James the Apostle, promulgating the law of this Sacrament, clearly establish. Is any man, he says, sick amongst you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14).”

We will briefly go over what you can do to prepare for death or help someone who is dying, what are the Traditional Catholic prayers for the dying, and some notes on how the Last Rites have been changed by Vatican II, as well as give some helpful resources links that both priests and family members can use to be prepared for the Last Rites.

Preparation for the Last Rites:

1. Calling a Priest to the Sick Soul

A priest should be called right away when a soul is in danger of death or gravely ill. This should never be delayed and even if there is doubt, call anyway, as the priest needs the person to be conscious to be able to administer the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion. One should always have the parish Emergency call number in their phone or written down. This phone number can be found on the parish bulletin or the online parish site. Keep in mind too, that it doesn't matter if it is 3am in the morning, that emergency is of the highest importance for the salvation of the soul. Be able to give these answers to the priest when calling:

A) What is the condition of the sick person…are they conscious?

B) Do you know if the person is Catholic?

B) Does the person desire or open to seeing a priest?

C) What is the address to the location of the sick person?

Dispositions for the Reception of Extreme Unction according to the Council of Trent:

As all care should be taken that nothing impede the grace of the Sacrament, and as nothing is more opposed to it than the consciousness of mortal guilt, the constant practice of the Catholic Church must be observed of administering the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist before Extreme Unction.

And next, let parish priests strive to persuade the sick person to receive this Sacrament from the priest with the same faith with which those of old who were to be healed by the Apostles used to present themselves. But the salvation of his soul is to be the first object of the sick man’s wishes, and after that the health of the body, with this qualification, if it be for the good of his soul.

Nor should the faithful doubt that those holy and solemn prayers which are used by the priest, not in his own person, but in that of the Church and of Our Lord Jesus Christ, are heard by God; and they are most particularly to be exhorted on this one point, to take care that the Sacrament of this most salutary oil be administered to them holily and religiously, when the sharper conflict seems at hand, and the energies of the mind as well as of the body appear to be failing.

2. Prepare for the Sick Call if You are Able to with the Following:

First of all, prepare the patient, if possible, and make sure that the sickroom is neat and clean. Have a small table near the sick person’s bed and cover it with a clean white cloth. Place the following items on it if you have them, if not, don’t worry, If you don’t have the items available, the Priest will bring what he needs that are essential. However, every Catholic home should have these items and look to obtain them now before some in the home is sick:

  1. A Crucifix, (the Death of Christ is our greatest example and consolation, it also helps in keeping the devil away for the final temptations)

  2. Two blessed candles (a symbol of sanctifying grace and the promise of eternal life -- should be placed nearby so the dying can see the flame)

  3. Holy water (in some sort of vessel, used for blessing and also keeping the devil away)

  4. A small glass of fresh water and a spoon (used for administrating the Holy Eucharist)

  5. A white napkin or cloth (for the use of the sick person)

  6. Several cotton balls (these will be used to wipe the Blessed Oil off of the sick person’s five senses after they have been anointed)

  7. A plate containing a slice of bread or a slice of lemon (the priest will use it to cleanse the Blessed Oil from his thumb afterwards, these will have to be burned or buried afterwards, as the Holy Chrism is on them)

  8. A small bowl of water and a small towel (so the priest can wash his hands after giving Extreme Unction)

The priest should be met at the door by someone with a lighted candle and bell (if possible), who will lead the priest to the sick room. All present should kneel out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament the Priest will be carrying.

The first three named articles should be easy to procure, since every Catholic family should have a crucifix, blessed candles, and holy water in the home. However, if few or none of these items are available, don’t worry; the priest typically carries miniature versions of these items in his sick call kit.

Note that you can easily buy on Ebay, Etsy and some other Catholic stores what the call a “Sick box” or a “Last Rites Sick Call Crucifix” or a “Sick Call kit” to be used for your family.


The form of the Sacrament is the words and solemn prayer which the priest uses at each anointing: “By this Holy Unction may God pardon thee whatever sins thou hast committed by the evil use of (one of your five senses) sight, smell, hearing, taste or touch.”

3. Prayers for the Dying


O JESUS, I adore Thee as the author of the Holy Sacrament of Extreme Unction, and as the source of its priceless graces, which Thou hast acquired and merited for us by the shedding of Thy Precious Blood. I refer to Thee all the graces Thou didst ever produce in souls through Extreme Unction. I bless Thee a thousand times for all the glory Thou hast given to Thyself by this last Sacrament. I adore the infinite design of Thy Providence in the institution of Extreme Unction and I surrender myself to the accomplishment of Thy divine Plan for me according to Thy holy will. I implore Thee most humbly to grant me the grace of receiving this Sacrament at the end of my life. And if I should not be able to receive it, I implore Thee to produce in my soul, by Thy great mercy, the same graces I would acquire by its reception. 0 Jesus, I adore Thee in the holy anointing of Thy sacred body in the last days of Thy life by St. Mary Magdalen, and at Thy burial by St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph of Arimathea. I offer Thee all the holy unctions ever performed, in this last Sacrament, upon the bodies of all Christians who have received it or ever shall do so, in honor of and homage to the divine anointing of Thy deified body. (Taken from St. John Eudes, Fifth Meditation on Extreme Unction).

When a sick person is known to be dying, relatives and friends should gather around the sick bed in the home or in hospital, and say the following prayers. If a priest is present, he will lead the prayers, if not, a relative or friend should do this. Before beginning the prayers the dying person, room and others present are sprinkled with holy water and a Crucifix placed in the hands of the person dying. A blessed candle can also be lite by the beside, as a symbol of the sick person's Baptism -- a symbol of sanctifying grace and the promise of eternal life -- should be placed nearby so he can see the flame.

See the Resource section below for printable PDF of prayers for the dying.

4. Request a Requiem Mass for the Deceased Soul

This is often forgotten or not thought of by most Catholics today. The Council of Trent tells us, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Perpetual Sacrifice, is the greatest of all suffrages for the Holy Souls.” Arranging a Requiem Mass for Catholic souls is very important and a duty. If a Requiem Mass cannot be said for their burial for some reason, a Requiem Mass can still be requested after, and there is even a special devotion called the 30 Gregorian Masses, that one can request a priest to offer for the soul. Gregorian Masses are a set of thirty Masses celebrated on thirty consecutive days for a deceased soul. It takes its name from St. Pope Gregory the Great who started this practice in the 7th century. Read more about that here.

How Extreme Unction was changed after Vatican II:

The fundamental understanding of the Anointing of the Sick has been flipped after Vatican II to be focused on the body more than the soul. Whereas, St. Pius X said in his Catechism that Extreme Unction “ is a Sacrament instituted for the Spiritual as well as for the temporal comfort of the sick in danger of death.” It’s effects, says, Fr. Kimball, SSPX “is principally to cure the sickness of sin, the traces of sin and to comfort the soul so as to withstand the last temptations and the fear of death. On the other hand, the new rite gives priority, if not exclusivity, to the bodily help.”

This is very dangerous as it does not help a soul to be freed from all sin before death so as to be able to go straight to Heaven. If there is no emphasis on sin, contrition and the need to be cleansed from sin, then the main purpose of preparation for death is totally being missed.

For example, most souls don’t even know about the Apostolic Blessing because that has been dropped from the new rite of the sick. It is pure Spiritual gift and a great blessing not to be missed but if the new focus is for the body, then why would there be a need for the Apostolic Blessing?

There is also a change in the prayers of the anointing of the sick. For example, the new rite says: “that, delivered from your sins, God save you and restore you in His Goodness.” Whereas the traditional rites prays humbly and clearly: “may God forgive thee whatever sins thou has committed by the evil use of the sight (hearing, smell, taste, speech or touch). As you can see the traditional emphasis on the curing the “sickness of sin” is eliminated from the new rite of anointing.

Also, the new rite no longer anoints all the senses of the body, instead Pope Paul VI changed it to only the blessing of the hands and forehead. Whereas the Traditional Rite blesses the fives senses: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, and feet.

Resources that Every Catholic Should have or Know About:

  • All in one Book with the Last Rites in Latin/English as well as prayer for the Dying: This booklet serves as both a ritual and step-by-step instructional for the administration and reception of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction or Last Rites. It is an essential book for all those wishing to be well prepared for death or to better understand the solemn nature of this beautiful sacrament.

This essential booklet gives detailed explanations of the following:

o What to do in Danger of Death

o Sick Calls: How to prepare for Priest & What to Do When He Arrives

o Extreme Unction – Confession and Communion of the Sick - Viaticum

o Apostolic Blessing, Prayers for the Dying

o Visitation and Care of the Sick: Imposition of Hands

o Praying for the Dying Person especially when the Last Agony begins, at the Moment of Death, and after the Soul Has Departed

  • For Non-Catholics: Tridentine Profession of Faith Creed of Pius IV for the dying and conversions:

The “Professio fidei Tridentina,” also known as the “Creed of Pope Pius IV,” is one of the four authoritative Creeds of the Catholic Church. It was issued on November 13, 1565 by Pope Pius IV in his bull “Injunctum nobis” under the auspices of the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). It was subsequently modified slightly after the First Vatican Council (1869 - 1870) to bring it in line with the dogmatic definitions of the Council. The major intent of the Creed was to clearly define the Catholic faith against Protestantism. At one time it was used by Theologians as an oath of loyalty to the Church and to reconcile converts to the Church, but it is rarely used these days.

Find it online here (N.B. the profession is broken up between the images)

This booklet is also helpful and was used by nurses back in the day to assist dying non-Catholics, Apostolate to Assist Dying Non-Catholics:


0 Good Jesus, I adore Thee as High Priest to Whom, before all others, belongs the right of conferring all the Sacraments. I give myself to Thee as High Priest and implore Thee to inspire in my soul an the dispositions required for the fruitful reception of Extreme Unction and to produce in me all the graces represented by its consoling ceremonies. In order to dispose myself for its reception, 0 my Saviour, behold I cast myself down at Thy feet, accusing myself most humbly before Thee and Thy heavenly court of all my sins, most humbly begging Thy forgiveness with all the humility and contrition I can muster, with my whole heart imploring Thee, together with Thy Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints, to ask forgiveness from Thy Eternal Father, and to offer to Him in satisfaction for my sins the full measure of Thy infinite merits and sufferings.

0 Good Jesus, come into my soul and into my heart. Come to bring me Thy holy peace and to destroy in me all that might disturb the peace and repose of my spirit. Come unto me, and with Thy Precious Blood purify me of the foulness of my sins. Come to grant me full and total absolution, indulgence and remission of all my sins. 0 Most Kind Jesus, I offer Thee all the senses and members of my body and all the powers of my soul. Anoint me, I beg Thee., with the sacred oil that ever flows from Thy divine Heart, that is, with the oil of Thy grace and mercy and, by this heavenly anointing, cleanse me of the evil effects of my sins. 0 Dearest Jesus, I offer Thee the holy employment of bodily senses and spiritual powers ever made by Thy Divine Self, by Thy Blessed Mother and all the saints, in satisfaction for my abuse or misuse of the members and senses of my body and the faculties of my soul. May it please Thee to grant me the grace to employ them in future only for Thy pure glory.

Finally, 0 Most Amiable Jesus, may it please Thee to give me Thy holy blessing. Ask the Beneficent Father and the Holy Spirit to bless me with Thee, so that this divine and mighty benediction may destroy in me all that displeases Thee, and transform me utterly into eternal benediction and praise of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Ejaculatory prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus." Veni, Domine Jesu! (Apoc. 22, 20).

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. (Apoc. 14:13)



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