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How to Assist the Dying when a Priest is not Present

Crucifix for the Anointing of the Sick - Last Rites
Crucifix for the Anointing of the Sick - Last Rites

“Let all things be done decently, and according to order.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:40

As it is not always possible for a Priest to be present at the actual moment of death, especially in large parishes, and more especially where the parish covers a large territory, the faithful should themselves endeavor to assist their dying brethren after the Priest has administered the last sacraments.

When they see that the patient’s end is approaching, they should light a blessed candle and assist him [if patient doesn’t have a highly contagious disease] to hold it in his hand, at least during the regular prayers for the dying and in the actual moment of death. If the agony should last a considerable time, some one else may hold the candle near by and keep it in readiness.

Some one should read the prayers for the dying from the prayer-book as well as other prayers after them, if the death- agony should continue.

If the agony should last very long, these and other prayers may be repeated from time to time.

The person holding the candle or kneeling close to the dying person should, from time to time, and especially at the last moment, repeat short and fervent invocations to him, such as:

“My Jesus, mercy. ”
“My Jesus, forgive me my sins; I am heartily sorry for them.”
” Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me,”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, into your hands I commend my body and my soul.”
”Lord, not my will, but thine be done.”
“Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”
“Angel Guardian and my Holy Patron, assist me,” etc , etc.

Sprinkle the dying person often with holy water, especially if he should seem to have a hard struggle. Let not too many persons crowd into the death-chamber, especially if it is small. If there should be many visitors, let them remain but a short time to say some prayers and then retire. Do not sit around in the sick-room or adjoining rooms, unless you are sure you will be needed and can be of assistance.

Source: “Catholic Practice at Church and at Home” by Fr. Alexander Klauder, Angel Guardian Press, 1898, Imprimatur.

from the Pieta Prayer Book

Three Very Beautiful Prayers which are very useful to a dying person, and should be prayed often as an act of mercy.

There once was a Pope in Rome who was surrounded by many sins. The Lord God struck him with a fatal illness. When he saw that he was dying he summoned Cardinals, Bishops and learned persons and said to them: “My dear friends! What comfort can you give me now that I must die, and when I deserve eternal damnation for my sins?” No one answered him. One of them, a pious curate named John, said: “Father, why do you doubt the Mercy of God?” The Pope replied: “What comfort can you give me now that I must die and fear that I’ll be damned for my sins?” John replied: “I’ll read three prayers over you; I hope, you’ll be comforted and that you’ll obtain Mercy from God.” The Pope was unable to say more. The curate and all those present knelt and said an Our Father, then the following prayers:

Prayer 1

Lord Jesus Christ,
Thou Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, God and Man,
Thou who in fear sweated blood for us on the Mount of Olives in order to bring peace,
and to offer Thy Most Holy Death to God Thy Heavenly Father for the salvation of this dying person…
If it be, however, that by his sins he merits eternal damnation,
then may it be deflected from him.
This, O Eternal Father through Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Thy Dear Son, Who liveth and reigneth in union with The Holy Ghost
now and forever.

Prayer 2

Lord Jesus Christ,
Thou who meekly died on the trunk of the Cross for us,
submitting Thy Will completely to Thy Heavenly Father
in order to bring peace and to offer Thy most Holy Death to Thy Heavenly Father
in order to free…(this person)…and to hide from him
what he has earned with his sins;
grant this O Eternal Father,
Through Our Lord Jesus Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in union with the Holy Ghost
now and forever. Amen.

Prayer 3

Lord Jesus Christ,
Thou Who remained silent to speak through the mouths of the Prophets;
I have drawn Thee to me through Eternal Love,
which love drew Thee from Heaven into the body of the Virgin,
which love drew Thee from the body of the Virgin into the valley of this needful world,
which Love kept Thee 33 years in this world,
and as a sign of Great Love, Thou hast given Thy drink,
as a sign of great love, Thou has consented to be a prisoner
and to be led from one judge to another
and as a sign of great love Thou has consented to be condemned to death,
and hast consented to die and to be buried and truly rise,
and appeared to Thy Holy Mother and all the Holy Apostles,
and as a sign of great love Thou hast ascended,
under Thy own strength and power,
and sitteth at the right hand of God Thy heavenly Father,
and Thou has sent Thy Holy Spirit into the heart of Thy Apostles
and the hearts of all who hope and believe in Thee.
Through Thy sign of Eternal love, open heaven today
and take this dying person…
and all his sins into the realm of Thy Heavenly Father,
that he may reign with Thee now and forever.

Meanwhile the Pope died. The curate persevered to the third hour, then the Pope appeared to him in body and comforting him; his countenance as brilliant as the sun, his clothes as white as snow, and he said: “My dear brother! Whereas I was supposed to be a child of damnation I’ve become a child of happiness. As you recited the first prayer many of my sins fell from me as rain from Heaven, and as you recited the second Prayer I was purified, as a goldsmith purifies gold in a hot fire. I was still further purified as you recited the third prayer. Then I saw Heaven open and the Lord Jesus standing on the Right Hand of God the Father who said to me: “Come, all thy sins are forgiven thee, you’ll be and remain in the realm of My Father forever. Amen!”

With these words my soul separated from my body and the angels of God led it to Eternal Joy.
As the curate heard this he said: “O Holy Father! I can’t tell these things to anyone, for they won’t believe me.” Then the Pope said: “Truly I tell thee, the Angel of God stands with me and has written the prayers in letters of gold for the consolement of all sinners. If a person had committed all the sins in the world, but that the three prayers shall have been read (over him) at his end (death), all his sins will be forgiven him, even though his soul was supposed to suffer until the Last Judgment, it will be redeemed (freed).

The person who hears them read, he won’t die an unhappy death also in whose house they will be read. Therefore take these prayers and carry them into St. Peter’s Basilica and lay them in the Chapel named the Assumption of Mary, for certain consolation. The person who will be near death, who reads them or hears them read gains 400 years indulgence for the days he was supposed to suffer in Purgatory because of his guilt. Also who reads this prayer or hears it read, the hour of his death shall be revealed to him. Amen!

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