The Last Rites

The last rites are a ceremonial process given to Catholics who are on the verge of dying. This article is intended to provide a fundamental understanding of the ceremony.

What are the Last Rites?

In Catholicism, last rites are sets of prayers and ordinances ministered to someone who is on the verge of dying, usually those who are chronically sick to the point of death. These rites can also be given to someone who is awaiting execution or some who is mortally injured. The last rites should not be given to people who are already dead.

According to the Catholics, seven sacraments uphold their faith: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Confession, Anointing the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Three of these sacraments are part of the last rites:

  • Confession
  • Anointing the sick
  • The Eucharist

These three sacraments along with the Apostles Creed and Our Father prayers are the last rites? Let’s examine each of these sacraments;

Confession

Though confession is not essential to receiving the last rites, it is common practice prior to receiving the sacraments.

If the person can travel, they can change to a holy place to perform the priest’s confession. Preferably, confession should only be done with an ordained priest.

Anointing of the sick

For some decade, this sacrament has only been in practice for those in imminent danger of death; hence the reason it was called “extreme unction,” which implies the final anointing.

The basis for the practices derived from the Apostle James’s citation, in his epistle to the church, written in the fifth chapter in the sixteenth verse, James advised if anyone is sick amongst the church, he should call for the elders to anoint. Though, James further states that the prayer of faith shall heal the sick.

Hence, the sick person’s anointing is nigh death and to be in faith when this is done.

The Eucharist

Before being given a final communion, the sick person is led in the prayer of our Father. Usually, the Holy Communion should be the last sacrament a catholic receives. It is also called the viaticum.

The communion can be taken on other occasions by the sick person if the person is disposed to accepting it, as some believe it would help strengthen their faith to recover and help them persist through their sufferings.

The basis upon which the sacrament has its ground is the sermon by Jesus, on his last days physically on earth. The practice was mentioned in the Jewish feast, the feast of the unleavened bread. He spoke about the bread as a figure of his body, blood a figure of the bloodshed for sins’ remission.

Who Can Be Given the Last Rites?

Only the living can receive anointing; the last rites are allotted for the dying and not the dead. Non-Catholic and not-very-good practicing Catholics are permitted to participate in the last rites, though this process doesn’t include the Holy Communion.

The canon code amongst the Catholics provides that Catholics who deserve the last rite ought to receive it. If the sick person has not received baptism, he can request to undergo the process of baptism.

Conclusion

Although there are several criticisms related to the practice of the last rites, as some accuse it of being ritualistic and away from substantial biblical, doctrinal truth, the Catholics still hold in high esteem the belief system evident in their practice.

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