Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual) - Communion for the sick, general rules



1. The faithful are bound by precept to receive holy communion when in danger of death from any cause. And even though they may have communicated on that very day, nevertheless, it is strongly recommended that they receive a second time when at the point of death. As long as this danger continues, they are allowed and should receive holy Viaticum more than once (but only once a day), if the confessor so advises.

2. Holy Viaticum for the sick should never be deferred unduly, and those having the care of souls should be most concerned that the sick receive it while fully conscious. Yet care is to be taken above all lest it be brought to the unworthy--whereby others could be scandalized--unless they first have confessed and have made the necessary reparation for scandal publicly given.

3. The pastor should exhort a sick person to receive holy communion even when not grievously ill nor in imminent danger of death, particularly on the occasion of a high feast; and let him never decline to administer it.

4. Viaticum may be given to the dying even though they are not fasting. But great care is to be exercised lest it be administered in a case where there might occur some irreverence to this sublime sacrament, such as delirium, incessant coughing, or the like. The sick, even those who are not bedridden, may take some liquid nourishment, except alcohol, if owing to their illness they cannot observe complete fast up to the time of receiving communion without grave inconvenience. They may also take medicine either in solid or liquid form (except alcohol), providing it is truly medicine prescribed by a physician or even one of the patent medicines. It is left to the prudent judgment of the confessor to determine under what conditions the sick may be dispensed from the law of fasting without any time-limit whatsoever. N.B. This rubric has been liberalized by the aforementioned "Motu proprio" of Pius XII, which states: "The sick, even though not confined to bed, can take non-alcoholic drink and true and proper medicines, either liquid or solid, without limitation of time, before celebrating Mass or receiving holy communion."

5. Yet no one is to have the Blessed Sacrament brought to him solely for the purpose of adoring it or having it in his presence, whether out of devotion or under any other pretext.

6. The bearing of this holy sacrament from the church to the home of the sick must be done with proper decorum. The priest who carries it will have it covered with a clean veil, will go in procession (publicly) with becoming reverence, holding the sacred host before his breast in devotion and awe, and preceded by a torchbearer. Holy communion should never be carried to the sick in a wholly private manner, except for a just and reasonable cause.

7. The right and duty of carrying holy communion publicly from the church to the sick, even to non-parishioners, belongs to the pastor of the given territory. Other priests may do so only in case of necessity, having at least the presumed permission of the respective pastor or the Ordinary.

8. Any priest may carry communion to the sick in a private manner, provided he has permission--at least presumed--from the priest who is charged with the custody of the Blessed Sacrament. Whenever holy communion is to be administered privately to the sick, special attention is to be paid to the reverence and dignity owing to this great sacrament.

9. The administration of holy communion as Viaticum, whether done publicly or privately devolves on the pastor in whose territory the sick reside.

10. As the pastor proceeds to take communion to one who is sick, he will by ringing the church bells, assemble some of his parishioners, either the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (where this organization is in existence) or some other pious faithful, so that they can accompany the holy Eucharist carrying candles or torches, as well as the umbella or canopy if such is available. He will have given notice beforehand that the sickroom be in order, and that there be prepared therein a table covered with clean linen on which the most holy sacrament can be placed with propriety.

11. The following articles should be in readiness in the sickroom: lighted candles, two vessels--one containing water, the other wine, a linen cloth to be placed under the chin of the communicant, and whatever else will fittingly enhance the room, depending on the peoples' circumstances.

12. As soon as the escort for the Blessed Sacrament is assembled the priest vests in surplice and stole, or even in white cope; and likewise vested in surplice are the acolytes or clerics or priests (if they customarily assist) who will accompany him. Then with due reverence he takes some particles (only one, if he is to travel by a long or difficult route) from the ciborium and puts them in a pyx or small receptacle which he closes firmly and covers with a silk veil. Having received the humeral veil over his shoulders, he now takes in both hands the receptacle with the sacrament, and proceeds on the way, walking bareheaded below the umbella or canopy.

13. At the head of the procession there should always be an acolyte or other server who carries the lantern (the sacrament may not be carried thus at night, except in case of necessity). Following next are two clerics or their substitutes, one of whom carries the holy water with aspersory, the burse containing the corporal to be used in covering the table upon which the Blessed Sacrament will be placed in the sickroom, and the linen purificator for wiping the priest's fingers; the other carries the Ritual and the little bell which he rings continually. Then follow the torchbearers; and lastly the priest, holding the sacrament elevated before his breast and reciting the "Miserere" or other psalms and canticles. Should the journey be long or difficult, and even perhaps made on horseback, it will be necessary that the receptacle with the sacrament be securely encased in a beautifully made burse, and this fastened to the neck and secured at the breast, so as to prevent the sacrament from falling or being shaken out of the pyx.

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