Can a lay-person give the last rites?


I was at our grocery store on Christmas eve afternoon picking up last minute food stuff for my group dinner and a woman collapsed from an apparent heartattack. The management came and there was bleeding from her nose and they couldn’t get a pulse, she was as white as a sheet. It all happened so fast. They asked if anyone knew CPR, I said I did but then the paramedics came and they came so quickly but it didn’t look good. I prayed a prayer for her and just briefly touched her hand but could I have said some last rights because it seemed that was her last moments here on earth? I have come on other accident victims, cna I say the last rights as I hve been with others taking communion to the shut in so why couldn’t I say last rights to the ones dying or does it have to be a priest?
thank you for any reply to this traumatic experience for her and me. dessert


Hi D,

What the Church means by ‘last rites’ is the sacrament of anointing. Only a priest or bishop can administer this sacrament. When you bring the Eucharist to the sick, you assist the priest in administering that sacrament, but it is only the priest or bishop who can consecrate the bread and the wine in the first place.

So yes, you may pray for the person, but no—you cannot administer the last rites.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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