Monday, April 15, 2013

Preparing a Person for Death

Picture source
Anointing of the Sick

When my father was dying, my mother made sure he was well-prepared.  Even now when we, her children, mention to her that an elderly friend is in the hospital or if a friend is in critical condition, she instructs us in what we HAVE to do.  Today, we learned that someone is very critical.  This person has been away from the Church for many years.  This may also be this person's last illness.  Thankfully, this person wants to return home to the Catholic church.  Once again, my mother gave instructions of what must be done to help this person die a holy death.

However, I have personally encountered the very sick and elderly people to be frightened when the anointing of the sick is mentioned.  One elderly person would not let the priest touch her for the necessary anointing.  It is to this priest's credit that he did all he could with someone not open to this sacrament, to finally be able to administer it as best he could.  The reason for this reaction may be that the elderly person still confuse this beautiful sacrament of healing with the old name of Extreme Unction.  That name may be associated as the sacrament for the dying.  We should be aware that sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for the elderly, for the chronically ill as well as those in danger of dying.  Receiving this sacrament may make a person  open to God's healing, if it be His will.

The other reason for the fear is that the devil and his demons may be already fighting for that person's soul.  We need to pray but especially for those agonizing in death.

Try to explain the importance and the benefits of this sacrament to the person in need of it but also to the family members (if you are not the immediate family member).


1.  Contact a priest immediately and make arrangements for him to administer the anointing of the sick.  Even if it is after hours, the church has instructions on how to reach a priest in case of an emergency.  If you are a friend or a relative of  the person in need, you may have to do this act of charity yourself as the family may be too distraught or confused at that time.

IMPORTANT: A priest should also be asked to give an Apostolic blessing.

The apostolic blessing with plenary indulgence at the hour of death should be imparted, following the reception of the last sacraments, to those who desire it while still rational and conscious. It may likewise be granted to anyone who has given any indication of such desire, or who has seemed contrite before becoming unconscious or irrational. But it must be denied absolutely to the excommunicated, the impenitent, or those who die in patent mortal sin.

2.  Bring holy water with you and sprinkle the sick person's bed with holy water as well as the entire hospital/hospice/bedroom with this powerful sacramental.  The reason for this is that the demons will be surrounding a dying person, fighting God for that person's soul.  When we use a sacramental like Holy Water, it will protect the person against evil forces.

3.  Place a brown scapular over the person's neck.  A dying person needs the protection of Our blessed mother and the promises she made for those who wear her brown scapular.

Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock and made the following promise:

 "Take this Scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of peace.  Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."
Brown Scapular History

4.  Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while in the presence of the dying person.
Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the Sick and Dying.
“When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just judge, but as the merciful Savior” (Diary 1541) . 
5.  My family and I prayed the following prayer as many times as we could as our father was dying.   It was the Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph found in the Pieta.  It has been modified so that it can be prayed for someone in need.

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, we place in you all of NAME OF PERSON'S INTERESTS AND DESIRES. O St. Joseph, do assist NAME OF PERSON by your powerful intercession and obtain for NAME OF PERSON from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.  O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms.  I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart.  Press Him in my name and kiss His fine Head for NAME OF PERSON, and ask Him to return the kiss when NAME OF PERSON draws his/her dying breath.  St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for NAME OF PERSON.  Amen.


Karen Krause said...

Thank You for this article! My father passed away a few weeks ago. I had gotten trained to be a Eucharistic minister a couple months before and was bringing him Communion twice a week. As the day got closer (he had cancer and his condition would decline every day) I would pray with him and when he became unable to pray out loud I would just read out loud out of my prayer book and say the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet at his bedside so he could hear it. My Parish Priest was able to get there to give him the Sacrament of Healing one week before he passed away and I was saying both the 9day and 30 day St Joseph novena for him. He passed away on March 19th -St Joseph's Day while I was saying The Rosary and Divine mercy Chaplet at his bedside. The miraculous thing about this is that March 19th was his Dads birthday, death day and his Dads name was Joseph. I appreciate your article, it shows me that I did all the right things for him and gives me great comfort. Even though he was in a lot of pain it truly was a happy death. That day gave witness to the power of prayer, our great and wonderful saints, and our sacraments.

Esther Gefroh said...

Karen, my sincerest condolences on the death of your dear father. What a beautiful death! Thank you for sharing. God bless.

Ennoh said...

Thanks so much for this post Esther. I think its a great article to save and have ready for when a loved one is near death. It takes away the element of scrambling around looking for the right thing to do or say....

Esther Gefroh said...

You are very welcome! God bless Ennoh!

Mimi said...

I went to a Lenten Retreat recently on this very topic - it was fascinating and very important.
Memory Eternal to your dad and to Karen's dad.

Esther Gefroh said...

Was there anything else they covered that I didn't list, Mimi?