By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

November is the month of the Holy Souls.

An array of stories related to the subjects of dying, death and resurrection – and the Church’s teachings – appear in this issue of The Catholic Standard and Times and are scheduled for subsequent issues.

According to “Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum,” a book of liturgical rites and prayers approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The Christian community has a continuing responsibility to pray for and with the person who is dying. Through its sacramental ministry to the dying, the community helps Christians to embrace death in mysterious union with the crucified and risen Lord, who awaits them in the fullness of life.” {{more}}

The book outlines a number of practices that not only comfort but also reassure in the faith those the beloved deceased leave behind, according to Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Worship. Among them are:

Celebration of Viaticum
Viaticum, a term for holy Communion administered with the anointing of the sick, is given to a person who is dying or who faces the possibility of death.

If possible, viaticum should take place within the full Eucharistic celebration, with the family, friends and other members of the Christian community taking part.

The rite for viaticum outside Mass is used when the full Eucharistic celebration cannot take place. Again, if it is possible, others should take part.

Commendation of the Dying
A collection of prayers for the spiritual comfort of the Christian who is close to death, these prayers are traditionally called the commendation of the dying to God and are to be used according to the circumstances of each case.

Prayers for the Dead
When a priest has been called to attend a person who is already dead he does not administer the sacrament of anointing. Instead, he prays for the dead person. He may find it necessary to explain to the family of the person who is dead that sacraments are celebrated for the living, not for the dead, and that the dead are effectively helped by the prayers of the living.

To comfort those present, the priest may conclude these prayers with a simple blessing or with a symbolic gesture, for example, making the sign of the cross on the forehead.

A priest or deacon may sprinkle the body with holy water.

Rites for Exceptional Circumstances
Rites for exceptional circumstances are those which should be celebrated with a person who has suddenly been placed in proximate or immediate danger of death. They are for emergency circumstances and should be used only when such pressing conditions exist.

Care of a Dying Child
In its ministry to the dying, the Church also responds to the difficult circumstances of a dying child. Although no specific rites appear in “Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum,” notes are provided to help bring into focus the various aspects of this ministry.

“Viaticum, commendation of the dying and prayers for the dead – and the traditions that surround these three – remind us of God’s constant mercy and compassion to us, especially at this moment of leaving this world for the next, of His presence in accompanying us on the journey from this life to the next,” Father Gill said.

He encourages the faithful to make themselves aware of the prayers for the dying and the dead, and to participate in their parish’s Masses and prayers for the dead.

“This prayer, taken from the funeral liturgy, certainly has a place in our everyday prayers to remember the dead: ‘May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.'”

For more information, call Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the Office for Worship, at 215-587-3537.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or