Last rites

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Administering the last rites (Dutch School, c. 1600) Last Rites ca 1600.jpg
Administering the last rites (Dutch School, c. 1600)

The last rites, in Roman Catholicism, are the last prayers and ministrations given to an individual of the faith, when possible, shortly before death. The last rites go by various names. They may be administered to those awaiting execution, mortally injured, or terminally ill.

Death row is a special placement in a prison that houses inmates awaiting execution after being convicted of a capital crime. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution, even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists. In the United States, after a person is found guilty of a capital offense in death penalty states, the judge will give the jury the option of imposing a death sentence or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It is then up to a jury to decide whether to give the death sentence; this usually has to be a unanimous decision. If the jury agrees on death, the defendant will remain on death row during appeal and habeas corpus procedures, which may continue for several years.

Terminal illness or end-stage disease is an incurable disease that cannot be adequately treated and is reasonably expected to result in the death of the patient. This term is more commonly used for progressive diseases such as cancer or advanced heart disease than for trauma. In popular use, it indicates a disease that will progress until death with near absolute certainty, regardless of treatment. A patient who has such an illness may be referred to as a terminal patient, terminally ill or simply terminal. There is no standardized life expectancy for a patient to be considered terminal, although it is generally months or less. Life expectancy for terminal patients is a rough estimate given by the physician based on previous data and does not always reflect true longevity. An illness which is lifelong but not fatal is a chronic condition.

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Roman Catholic Church

A Roman Catholic chaplain, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, administering the last rites to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin, after the ship was set afire by a Japanese air attack, 19 March 1945 Joseph T. O'Callahan gives last rites to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin (CV-13), 19 March 1945.jpg
A Roman Catholic chaplain, Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, administering the last rites to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin, after the ship was set afire by a Japanese air attack, 19 March 1945

What in the judgment of the Roman Catholic Church are properly described as the Last Rites are Viaticum (Holy Communion administered to someone who is dying), and the ritual prayers of Commendation of the Dying, and Prayers for the Dead. [1]

<i>Viaticum</i>

Viaticum is a term used especially in the Catholic Church for the Eucharist administered, with or without Anointing of the Sick, to a person who is dying, and is thus a part of the Last Rites. According to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, "The Catholic tradition of giving the Eucharist to the dying ensures that instead of dying alone they die with Christ who promises them eternal life."

Of these, only Viaticum is a sacrament.

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has often been postponed until someone is near death, so much so that, in spite of the fact that in all celebrations of this sacrament, the liturgy prays for recovery of the health of the sick person if that would be conducive to his salvation, Anointing of the Sick has been thought to be exclusively for the dying and has been called Extreme Unction (Final Anointing). [2] If administered to someone who is not just ill but near death, Anointing of the Sick is generally accompanied by celebration of the sacraments of Penance and Viaticum. In such cases, the normal order of administration is: first Penance, then Anointing, then Viaticum.

Although these three sacraments are not, in the proper sense, the Last Rites, they are sometimes mistakenly spoken of as such.

The Eucharist given as Viaticum is the only sacrament essentially associated with dying: "The celebration of the Eucharist as Viaticum is the sacrament proper to the dying Christian". [3]

In the Roman Ritual's Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum, Viaticum is the only sacrament dealt with in Part II: Pastoral Care of the Dying. Within that part, the chapter on Viaticum is followed by two more chapters, one on Commendation of the Dying, with short texts, mainly from the Bible, a special form of the litany of the saints, and other prayers, and the other on Prayers for the Dead. A final chapter provides Rites for Exceptional Circumstances, namely, the Continuous Rite of Penance, Anointing, and Viaticum, Rite for Emergencies, and Christian Initiation for the Dying. The last of these concerns the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation to those who have not received them.

In addition, the priest has authority to bestow a blessing in the name of the Pope on the dying person, to which a plenary indulgence is attached.

Indulgence remission of sins in the Catholic Church

In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, an indulgence is "a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins". It may reduce the "temporal punishment for sin" after death, in the state or process of purification called Purgatory.

People awaiting execution would receive Confession and Viaticum, but not Anointing of the Sick, since their impending death is not on account of an illness.

Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches

Russian Orthodox priest administering the last rites to a soldier on the field of battle Prithastie ranennogo.jpg
Russian Orthodox priest administering the last rites to a soldier on the field of battle

In the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the last rites consist of the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) of Confession and the reception of Holy Communion.

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Byzantine Rite liturgical rite of most Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches

The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

Confession (religion) acknowledgment of ones sins

Confession, in many religions, is the acknowledgment of one's sins (sinfulness) or wrongs.

Following these sacraments, when a person dies, there are a series of prayers known as The Office at the Parting of the Soul From the Body. This consists of a blessing by the priest, the usual beginning, and after the Lord's Prayer, Psalm 50. Then a Canon to the Theotokos is chanted, entitled, "On behalf of a man whose soul is departing, and who cannot speak". This is an elongated poem speaking in the person of the one who is dying, asking for forgiveness of sin, the mercy of God, and the intercession of the saints. The rite is concluded by three prayers said by the priest, the last one being said "at the departure of the soul." [4]

There is an alternative rite known as The Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body When a Man has Suffered for a Long Time. The outline of this rite is the same as above, except that Psalm 70 and Psalm 143 precede Psalm 50, and the words of the canon and the prayers are different. [5]

The rubric in the Book of Needs (priest's service book) states, "With respect to the Services said at the parting of the soul, we note that if time does not permit to read the whole Canon, then customarily just one of the prayers, found at the end of the Canon, is read by the Priest at the moment of the parting of the soul from the body." [6]

As soon as the person has died the priest begins The Office After the Departure of the Soul From the Body (also known as The First Pannikhida ). [7]

In the Orthodox Church Holy Unction is not considered to be solely a part of a person's preparation for death, but is administered to any Orthodox Christian who is ill, physically or spiritually, to ask for God's mercy and forgiveness of sin. [8] There is an abbreviated form of Holy Unction to be performed for a person in imminent danger of death, [8] which does not replace the full rite in other cases.

Lutheran Churches

See also

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References

  1. M. Francis Mannion, "Anointing or last rites?" in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly
  2. "Catechism of the Catholic Church - The anointing of the sick". www.vatican.va.
  3. "Sacramental Guidelines" (PDF). Diocese of Gallup.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  4. Hapgood, Isabel Florence (1975), Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (Revised ed.), Englewood, NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, pp. 360–366
  5. A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery (1995), Book of Needs (Abridged) (2nd ed.), South Canaan PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, pp. 123–136, ISBN   1-878997-15-7
  6. A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery, Op. cit., p. 153.
  7. A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery, Op. cit., pp. 137–154.
  8. 1 2 Hapgood, Op. cit., pp. 607–608.