Last Rites: What They Are & What They Mean To Catholics?

A member of a Catholic church reciting Last Rites

Last rites are performed when a person approaches death to bring peace for them. The last rites are often associated with Catholic funerals, but this event occurs during the final day of the dying person. The formal for the practice of last rituals in Catholicism is Viaticum. Through this, holy communion is given to the dying person, which includes several ceremonies and prayers. 

The Last Rites are performed to remove the burden of one’s sins before leaving the earth. Catholics believe in judgment after death, and for this reason, they want to leave this life from the planet as a clean soul, free from all sins. The prayers and ceremonies are performed to protect the receiver, who will help the soul in the afterlife journey. 

What are the Last Rites and How Catholics Perform It?

The last rites refer to three sacraments. Each of the sacraments is performed to clean the soul of the dying person. To free the soul from every one of their sins is their preparation for the afterlife.   

It was not enough for someone to be ill for performing the last rites in the past times. It was only performed for those on their deathbed and nearing their final breaths. Let us look closely at the three sacraments portrayed as the last rites.

  1. Confession: If the person can make a sacramental confession, they have to confess. If not, then the final communion is directly brought to them.
  2. Anointing of the Sick: This process is followed when a person is not near death. Anointing with oil and reading the Scripture is the tradition. Nowadays, this process is performed on all those persons who are sick and are of elderly age.
  3. Final Communion: Communion happens when the body and blood of Christ are received by the sick after confession and anointing the sick. If someone cannot travel due to their condition, communion is brought to them.

When are The Last Rites Performed?

In the past, last rites were only performed for those near their deathbeds. Usually, priests circle the battlegrounds and perform the last rites for those in their previous times. Priests used to do the same thing with the hospitals as well.

Today Catholic beliefs have changed very much. For example, the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion is welcome all the time. According to catholic beliefs, there are no limits on the number of last rites performed for any person; it can be performed more than once.  Anointing of the sick has some limitations. It is performed only on those near danger of death or in the elderly stage of their life.

What is done During the Last Rites?

In the performance of the last rites, several prayers are chanted. These prayers are not funeral prayers, though considered as funeral prayers. The first prayer is done at the time of anointing of the sick, and it goes like, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you.”

After this, the Lord’s Prayer is done by the priest. The priest recites the final prayer during the communion, repeated for protection from the Lord. This prayer goes like this, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” The sacrament is concluded after consuming the Eucharist, usually the wine and the waffle by the recipients.

Who can Perform The Last Rites?

Only bishops and priest can perform certain sacraments, and they are the one who becomes minister for a confession or the anointing of the stick. However, ordinary people also perform last rites but in rare situations. There is no rule to be a Holy Communion; you don’t need to be a priest or bishop to perform the Holy Communion. Anyone can do this process if the priest or bishop is not available at the moment.  

How do Catholics Prepare for Death? The Last Rites

Every culture and religion has a different towards the death of a person. Catholic’s approach towards death means listening to their funeral songs, holding a mass of Christian burial, and performing the Last Rites. In the Catholic traditions, it is a way to protect one who is dying and prepare the soul for the judgment of the afterlife, the belief of Catholics.

Through these prayers and sacraments, one can be freed from all the sins, and this whole process is called the Last Rites because it is the last thing done for a dying person. However, we can witness a change in the Catholic traditions as they perform Last Rites to anyone approaching death in any way, be it older age or any disease.

The Catholic Last Rites process is limited to Catholics and can be performed for the person belonging to any community or religion. In the Catholic faith, last rites mean turning to the church, and it is committed to bringing peace to the families of those who are approaching death.