When death is near you want to have everything ready. What's most important is the Catholic sacrament.
I'll tell a few stories below and show you a handy kit that you can put together ahead of time.
Also we've copied the Catholic Prayers for the Dying so that you can print them or use them at the bedside on your phone or tablet.
Of the three versions I've heard or read, this one includes more traditional prayers and more consoling comfort to the dying person.
"Extreme Unction is the sacrament which, through the anointing and prayer of the priest, gives health and strength to the soul, and sometimes to the body, when we are in danger of death from sickness, accident or old age." ~St. Anne's Helper Catholic Confirmation Catechism #15
Don't wait! Call a priest as soon as possible. Time may be of the essence.
Oh, that dread and awesome moment. A danger of death is the time to administer Last Rites. It might also be the last moment.
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Gather these items into a ziplock bag:
Our own family's stories are the reason that we want to share the idea behind the following packet. Add your favorites or your special devotions for your loved one.
In the Prayers for the Dying there is a prayer that is specifically prayed at the Last Agony. If death might happen while you are away, be encouraged to say these prayers before you leave.
They are good to pray before or when the doctors remove a respirator.
It is also helpful to suggest the devotions that the sick person might not remember, and to help him or her to pray them.
St. Joseph and St. Benedict are patrons for a holy death.
You can also include other items like extra scapulars or a scapular medal (not allowed in X-ray type situations); a Miraculous Medal; a St. Benedict Medal; the St. Philomena oil, cord, scapular, and booklet; the Pardon Crucifix with pamphlet; as well as other devotions and chaplets.
Quick prayers for the dying:
Keep pictures of Jesus, Mary, and the saints where the patient can see them.
St. Joseph is Patron of the Dying and there are more St. Joseph prayers for the dying here.
My brothers and sisters and I have had the great grace to have been able to assist at the well provided deaths of our parents and two siblings.
We have a lot to share, hoping and praying that you and yours will also have the great grace of a holy death.
You can make and share the above packet with family and friends so they have these treasures ready for you and yours.
Below I show the directions from an old pre-1960s Sick Call set and another with more ideas.
In an emergency, call 911 and your priest. There's nothing like the stories of priests who have arrived before the ambulance. They're awesome to read.
It happens often now, too, because someone can call 911 because cell phones are so prevalent now. Many parishes have a number dedicated to sick calls that the designated priest carries with him.
There's no more exciting story and no more consoling truth than to know that the priest was able to administer Extreme Unction. My brother's story shows the priest in action in an emergency. See it below.
These are also great notes to read and discuss with your older children and to send to family and friends. Be sure your children know where you store your devotionals and The Prayers for the Dying.
See the instructions for a Sick Call set below these images of two different Sick Call sets.
We keep this family heirloom in our living room so as to honor the Sacred Heart and to keep the Sick Call set handy.
This next Sick Call set photo shows the set prepared for Father to come.
This is an antique, so the original candles that fit in the statue base are dark. I would use the new candles for the actual sacrament.
This next image is a close up.
This next picture shows the back panel in the antique Sick Call statue. Pretty neat hideaway.
This Crucifix Sick Call set is also in our living room.
It is a great focus for daily Rosary.
The Crucifix slides open to reveal the compartment that holds
The back side of the Cross holds the Crucifix like a stand and has candle holders, too.
How to open or replace the Crucifix on a Sick Call set.
There's a track on both the Cross base and the Crucifix itself that fit together. Slide them together from the top.
Then rehang it on the wall where the patient can see it.
Sick Call set up: Here is the Crucifix mounted in its base with the candles in their holder and Holy Water waiting.
See more ideas below.
Usually, the priest brings most of what he will need; yet if, as in my father's case, there is plenty of time, you can set up the table, Crucifix, candles, cotton balls, glass of water, spoon, and bread ahead of time.
For your convenience, we've copied notes from the instructions that were in our old Sick Call sets and the instructions from the set that my parents gave us for our wedding. They're different and both had good ideas.
I'm also including notes that were in the Prayers for the Dying booklet. There are notes for both cases:
In an emergency, Father will have everything.
When there is no emergency you prepare the table, room, and house. Make all as nice as possible for Father, especially if he is bringing the Viaticum - or Blessed Sacrament.
You can also invite family, friends, and neighbors. The more prayers the better and this is a great way to teach others how you would like to be treated.
Extreme Unction is a special part of the Church's ministry to the sick and should not be postponed either until a person is very near to death, or until a medical emergency arises in his life.
It is appropriate for this Sacrament to be administered in many different kinds of situations.
Helping the sick persevere to the end is a victorious Corporal Work of Mercy.
Be encouraged. If the wait and the work are long and hard, you will be glad for every prayer and every effort you spend in helping someone get to Heaven.
See and print: "Preparing for Last Rites" for your Sick Call set or to keep with your Prayers for the Dying booklets.
Remember to say the Act of Contrition and other prayers often with the patient.
If you're reading this ahead of time, you can print this to keep near or in your Sick Call set.
See the very same online text below this image link to the printable PDF:
It is very important to Baptize in case of necessity. It is the sacrament that gives us a right to Heaven.
Call Father and 911 as soon as possible.
If you come upon an emergency where the victim is unconscious, there is danger of death, and
Better safe than sorry.
Immediately say the Act of Contrition so the person could hear you if his or her hearing is still intact. This way, if the person is already baptized, you have done the most important things in the time till the priest arrives in case the person is Catholic and needs to supply for his venial sins and mortal sins till he can get to sacramental confession.
You can also give the person your scapular and devotionals if it is possible.
This situation is true for children, too, especially for doctors, nurses, midwives and other attendants at births.
A special case is when someone is dying and is conscious who wants to become Catholic.
Try to get a good priest to give instruction, Baptism, and the other sacraments if there is time, otherwise you should baptize the person if he or she wishes.
Baptism is the first and most important sacrament.
Dad was heroic when dealing with my mother's death. He stayed with Mom through it all. He knew that her plight was dangerous.
When the hospital was sending her to the larger hospital for surgery he called the priest to come.
At first, the priest would not come because the doctors had put him off saying that there was little danger, just a kink in the colon.
Then Father's Guardian Angel did his part and Father made it to the gurney right before she was put in the ambulance, her last lucid moments.
Next? The new doctor did his best to let Dad know, without saying explicitly, that she might die on the table. God is good to have sent the priest in time.
This is when we first read this beautiful Prayers for the Dying booklet.
Dad had kept it on hand and given us each a photocopy to keep close. This is where I got the idea to keep a collection of all of the things I might quickly need in case of emergency.
His provision and care for Mom is a very good memory for me.
Monday. Dad had everything on hand. Before Mom's surgery my Dad and my husband both had made it plain to the doctor and several staff members that Mom's Brown Scapular was to remain. The staff agreed several times.
Guess what? Snip!
Dad followed the gurney only able to tie it on her foot.
We knew that it was her life long devotion that counted, but Dad was also going to do his best. He was able to replace it over her shoulders after the surgery.
Wednesday evening two of my sisters arrived to give Dad a break for the evening. He intended only to go home for a nap.
As soon as he arrived home my sisters called him to tell him that Mom had taken a seriously worse turn.
He called one of us who called the rest of us so that all our local adult siblings and several spouses arrived in stages behind him.
Those next hours Dad led us in praying the Mysteries of the Rosary with only a break to greet arriving family and to say the Prayers for the Dying.
She died shortly after midnight during one of the Glorious Mysteries and surrounded by her praying family.
Dad had had a copy of the traditional Prayers for the Dying in a little pamphlet. It has beautiful traditional prayers. It was so nice not to have to hold a heavy prayer book.
We wanted to have that booklet ourselves, so Dad copied it for each of us to have a copy.
We've copied it to a PDF printable so that you can have the very same prayers. You can also use it from your phone.
Dad had given us a super good example.
He'd had over 40 years of colon trouble, a life time really.
The last couple of years were really rough, but he pulled through for a time and even regained most of his weight before his final battle.
At one point before he made a long trip to seek better care and he was able to ask his priest to give Extreme Unction before the trip.
He invited all of us family who were local to be there and to pray. It was beautiful.
He and Father were private for Dad's confession, but we and our children were all able to be there to see him receive the other sacraments. Father was good to explain everything in English and allow space for the children to see.
A few months later Dad was strong enough for another surgery.
The Sunday night after the surgery our sister-in-law was keeping watch with Dad and saw that his condition had changed and was worse.
He had congestive heart failure, a different affliction, so the priest was called and family was called at the same time.
Because of Dad's example with Mom, more of us were there praying with and for Dad.
Father stayed right up till time to leave for Monday morning's early Mass.
He wanted to stay as the death of a father is an important moment and he wanted to be sure to be there if he was needed; but he saw that we would all continue praying and that he could say Mass for Dad.
We wanted him to offer Mass and we felt that Dad would have wanted the very same thing.
So, Father not only offered Mass for Dad, he also posted notes in several places for people to see his intention for that Mass. A Mass and so many people praying at the very moments Dad died! Deo gratias!
Father was also good to remind us to have Masses offered on our father's death anniversary.
Of course, there was plenty of time to have made sure that Dad had his Scapular. We did the same as he had shown us to do with Mom.
We prayed the Rosary and the Prayers for the Dying.
Father had been using his prayer book which was a large book. He'd already said the prayers in Latin and when we offered the pamphlet he was glad to have had the smaller format of the same words in English.
We let him keep it as several of us had had our own copies and we could make more. What an honor to be able to give him the booklet so as to be able to comfort other people. Many graces....
My sister had had the Last Rites several weeks previous to her death at 50.
Near the end, as the hospital realized that my sister's situation had changed, they quickly called the ambulance to convey her to a better qualified hospital.
This time it was my turn to sound the alarm. By the grace of God, a wonderful Catholic nurse was there to let me know that since my sister's condition had changed, she could receive the sacraments again.
What a comfort! I am so grateful she was there.
I called my sister's priest at that moment and, later, at the same time as the ambulance was driving away he called back. In spite of his being new to the area, he had already arrived at the larger hospital in the next city! Priests can be true heroes!
The large hospital told him that she had checked out three days earlier, so he had to double check that she would actually be there and that he was in the right place.
I shared that they truly were really coming as were more family. Thank God for cell phones. He was good to wait and to stay till all was in good order.
Again, these were her last more lucid moments.
Just a day later, she wrote her last words, "Hi pain."
Father was there several times in the next twelve days to help her and to console her family. Both he and the Rector were there for her on the day of her death.
Her condition must have changed again and the Rector is the one who gave her Extreme Unction again. Three times in just two months. What a consolation! So many signs of the power of prayer.
This time we had had more time to gather devotionals. By her last day she had
Both her family and friends were able to visit, although she was unable to respond.
We were able to use emails to keep the family informed as to her difficulty. In the end, she had all these prayers and devotions.
We had been able to be with her all day repeating the Rosary, the Prayers for the Dying, and the Acts of Contrition, Faith, Hope, and Charity every hour. (That can be a trick, but the staff knew us by that time.)
When they removed the respirator late that Friday night, fifteen of us were there praying.
We said another Rosary after she expired and prayed another on the way home at nearly midnight Saturday.
I hope you and I are so well provided in our last hours.
Perhaps this is one too many stories, but it is an excellent example of God's providence before, during, and after an emergency.
Four months after my sister's death, the Friday morning before the week of Christmas, my brother reached overhead for a key and dropped unconscious at 52.
He and his good wife had had thirteen children, most of whom were home at the time.
His two daughters who are nurses were right there to perform CPR and to call the ambulance and priest. Two nurses and several phones!
His sons were at church getting ready to serve the late morning Mass. Again, because of the cell phones, one son was able to get another priest and ride with him to direct him to their home in record time. The other was able to go with his mother straight to the hospital.
Meanwhile Father was able to give Extreme Unction before the EMTs loaded our brother into the ambulance.
Yet another son drove Father's car behind the ambulance while Father read the Prayers for the Dying, with the rest of the family following in yet another car. Father stayed with the family till it was certain that the doctors could do no more and my brother's whole family was there praying as more and more relatives arrived and joined in praying.
On her way to the hospital his wife had called to tell us the danger.
We called each other, and emailed out of town family and friends asking for prayers. God bless email!
Most of our local family members were at the hospital within two hours and we prayed all through the day, the same as we had with my sister.
Another of our priests arrived in the evening for two hours to console the family and to lead the Prayers for the Dying and the Rosary.
When the respirator was removed late that evening, there were twenty five of us there and praying. We are all so grateful to have been able to witness his well provided death. God is good.
This time not only cell phones but also email was a big help in gaining more prayers at the time and later a full church at the Rosary and the Funeral Mass. Many cell phones were a giant help in keeping the long distance family informed and praying.
I am so happy to have had that booklet these several times that I just want to share that with the whole world! It is so good to be prepared and yet, it is hard to think ahead of time, "Well, what would I want to have handy?"
Hopefully the ideas on this page help you or your loved ones to have a well provided death, meaning all the sacraments and prayers.
The kindergarten teacher here taught our little ones to pray for all those who are near death. I was so delighted to hear that as my mother used to call us to request the very same intention, "Please ask the little ones to pray...." Be sure you do the same, because it was wonderful that we had children praying, they who are so close to God.
These are the great joys of keeping and living the Faith! I really am very happy. This might look like a mushy story, but a good end is sooooo good. To tears of gratitude.
Fight to do all you can for someone at that most awesome moment, there's nothing like the victory of final perseverance.
I could rejoice for an hour. I take praying for those near death seriously and I really hope that others will do the same for me and mine, you and yours.
May God grant us each a holy death!
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