Many older Catholics and their non-practicing children/ grandchildren call at the last minute for a priest to administer the Last Rites.
With a diminishing number of priests, a growing/competing workload and the number of mega parishes on the rise, it’s often not possible for a priest to attend a hospital/nursing home at short notice.
Numerous parishes now offer Anointing of the Sick on a monthly basis at a week day mass to encourage people, especially the elderly and infirmed, to be at peace about not having to call for a priest in an emergency, especially if one is unavailable. (Often familiies don’t have this message relayed to them). Is Mass with anointing to be encouraged?
What is the current thinking about the Last Rites? Is such language still suitable? Presumably ‘extreme unction’ is no longer an appropriate description for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick given this sacrarment presumes a person will recover by God’s grace; is this correct?
Furthermore, It’s increasingly challenging to educate non-practicing families who call urgently for a priest that their loved one ideally receive: the Sacrament of Reconciliation *Apostolic Pardon), Viaticum and have the prayers for the dying recited.
Please offer guidance about best sacramental practice for those close to death: is the Sacrament of Anointing still the preferred pathway for such a person; what constitutes the ‘Last Rites’; should ‘Last Rites’ terminology be used; is administering the Sacrament of Anointing on the person dying to be conferred as a consolation for loved ones witnessing the death of a family member /friend?
Many thanks Paul
I have written a lot on this topic over the years. Look here: https://paulturner.org/articles/
under “Catholic Practice” for my article, “Death of the Last Rites.”
In this book, Sacraments and Justice, I wrote the chapter on anointing the sick.
And I’ve treated the difficulties you cite in my book on funerals: Light in the Darkness.
In short, there is no solution to these challenges because contemporary culture has a firm hold on the expression “last rites.” I usually don’t despair, but the catechesis demanded to change people’s views on this topic would be expansive.