From a reader…
As part of my Lenten practices, I’m trying to seriously keep before my mind, on a daily basis, the fact that eventually I will die. As you yourself often say, we should practice dying well and plan for our eventual demise. With this in mind, do you have any tips or resources on how one could amass a Last Rites “kit”? What would such a kit include, and how might one collect these items for just such an occasion?
It is VERY good that you are regularly considering the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Constant reflection on the reality of these outcomes is salutary. Literally.
Last Rites “kit”.
We should make distinctions. The priest is ultimately the one who has to have the “kit”, including, for the whole, continuous “last rites”, his stole, oil stock, cotton, book, pyx. That’s the “kit”. Even when going about on his personal errands, Father should always have a stole and oil stock with Oleum Infirmorum.
For lay people, however, in the home. Yes, you should have some things.
I recommend that every home have a “Sick Call” Set. These sets often double as wall Crosses. They have inner compartments in which you keep candles to light when the priest arrives with Blessed Sacrament. These days, it is rare that the priest would walk to some place with the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by acolytes with candles. In a more perfect world, that would be the case. However, you should have candles ready for lighting as soon as the priest pulls up.
And there were/are more elaborate sets, too.
The idea was that everything should be prepared for the coming of the KING into the house!
In addition to the sick call set, if someone is going to be anointed and not just receive Holy Communion, you should have something ready to help Father clean his thumb of the oil. Traditionally, a slice of lemon and piece or two of bread work. They, afterward, should be burned or buried.
Hence, a sick call set will include, at minimum,
- a white tablecloth
- 2 blessed candles (matches)
- a Crucifix
- Holy Water
- regular water
- linen cloth and/or cotton balls
Set up a table with the cloth near the bed or place where the sick person is, especially so he can see it.
Set up the crucifix and light the blessed candle on either side
- You could have a piece of a blessed palm from Palm Sunday which the priest could use to sprinkle the Holy Water if the water is in a dish. [Usually Father will have some in a little bottle.]
- Have some regular water for when he cleans his fingers.
- I recommend also a piece of bread and/or lemon and cotton balls.
- Some include a small bell that the priest can ring after the sick person makes a confession to let people know they can reenter the room.
Another thing you should have is a card with the Apostolic Pardon/Blessing printed on it in Latin and the vernacular. Yes, Father should know it. Yes, it should be in Father’s book. No, many priests don’t think of it. Sometimes lay people have to do the thinking.