Dying with no priest available

Two-part question…

Question 1- If someone is dying and they are repentant (but wish to confess), and there is no priest available, is it true that any person standing near can absolve them in such an emergency? I thought I heard that, and I wanted to make sure.

Question 2- Also, about perfect contrition: If one who is also in danger of death has moral sin and repents - not just out of fear of hell, but also for regret for having offended God- does that equal a perfect contrition? I’ve seen this site, but to be honest, I can’t remember all of the things required to make a perfect act of contrition. Does it have be be by the prescription (and of course, from the heart), or can it be from the heart only without any aid? For instance, if I have a mortal sin and I can’t get to a priest until Saturday confession, I’ll confess that I’m sorry for my sins- that I’m sorry for having offended God and would rather go to Hell than to commit another mortal sin against Jesus, that I love God and that I detest all my sins, and that I intend to go to confession & do penance… I hope that is sufficient for a perfect contrition while I’m waiting to go to confession.

Thanks people :).

1 - No. Only a priest can act in the person of Christ and absolve the sins of another in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Another person cannot do this. The dying person can make an act of perfect contrition, but we leave the forgiveness up to God. If a priest is not available, we can only trust in God’s mercy.

2 - An act of perfect contrition is more a matter of the penitent’s motivation and disposition (sorrow for sins resulting from pure love of God rather than fear of punishment). The exact words do not matter; there is no prescribed formula for this.

Even if you have made a sincere act of contrition, you should not receive Communion without prior sacramental confession of serious sin. (By the way, you can probably make an appointment for confession if you don’t want to wait until Saturday.)

As a note, perfect contrition does not denote contrition motivated wholly by love of God, and nothing else, but contrition motivated chiefly by love of God.

The real question is, how can one really know that they have perfect contrition, and would anyone really want to chance it? :wink:

-Rob

People who are forced by circumstance to die without a priest around should mostly just try being contrite. They shouldn’t worry so much about whether it’s perfect contrition. Of course, there’s nothing stopping them from asking God to help them have perfect contrition – surely He will give them such a gift!

If you were with such a person, you could also pray for such a gift for them, and encourage them to tell God they’re sorry for offending Him with sins and that they love Him. They wouldn’t have to say it out loud, of course; and even someone unconscious and dying might hear you and respond in his head.

Dying persons can also rely on Christ’s Divine Mercy, and you could assist them by talking and praying about that. And anything you could do to comfort the dying physically or spiritually would be good stuff. Simple prayers are probably best, like the Our Father.

Nobody can absolve, except a priest.

Question 2- Also, about perfect contrition: If one who is also in danger of death has moral sin and repents - not just out of fear of hell, but also for regret for having offended God- does that equal a perfect contrition? I’ve seen this site, but to be honest, I can’t remember all of the things required to make a perfect act of contrition. Does it have be be by the prescription (and of course, from the heart), or can it be from the heart only without any aid? For instance, if I have a mortal sin and I can’t get to a priest until Saturday confession, I’ll confess that I’m sorry for my sins- that I’m sorry for having offended God and would rather go to Hell

I think you mean here that you would rather die (not go to hell) than sin again.

than to commit another mortal sin against Jesus, that I love God and that I detest all my sins, and that I intend to go to confession & do penance… I hope that is sufficient for a perfect contrition while I’m waiting to go to confession.

Thanks people :).

Perfect contrition isn’t about feelings. One can be reasonably certain of perfect contrition by reciting an Act of Contrition and specifically focusing and by an act of the will and truly meaning the words, “…whom I should love above all things.” Yes, fear of hell and punishment is a fine motive, but perfect contrition is ultimately an act of the will.

so what a layman can do in the presence of a dying person and a priest is not available, is to assist the dying into making a good act of perfect contrition, helping him to mean the words with his will, and entrust him to God’s mercy.

You say it so much more articulately than I do! :slight_smile:

Thank you!

The dying person can pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy or if not able to then someone can pray it in the presence of the dying person.

Right on!:thumbsup: If someone else with this dying person were to say the divine chaplet of mercy (or even the person himself if able) The Lord has promised us via St. Faustina that He would not stand as a “Judge” between him/her and The Father, but as our Merciful Savior. That’s not to say that this person would not spend some time in purgatory (I would say that is probably a given;) ) but I trust completely that Our Lord would personally keep this person out of hell. “Even if his sins be of scarlet.” Christ’s mercy is something (I believe) not even to be fathomed by humans.

Reasonably certain of perfect contrition? That seems a bit ambitious. I would submit that perfect contrition is a lot like salvation - the best we can do is have a well founded hope but not certainty.

I read somewhere, it might have been in my Grandfather’s old Baltimore Catechism, that a priest could give last rites to someone up to three or four hours dead, just in case. As far as absolution, I guess it is up to God.

My mother died suddenly,but the priest who gave her the Last Rites told me that they were allowed to do so for Two Hours after
apparent death.This was because there was a doubt as to whether
the Soul leaves the Body immediately after death or lingers for a while after the person is apparently dead.

I heard that you were allowed to do it as long as Rigor Mortis hadn’t set in (probably spelled that wrong). But it should be a conditional absolution “If you are present I absolve…”

I have found it rather alarming in recent years when i have called
at my local Presbytery just to ask for a Mass Card and no priest
was available.I have crossed the Avenue to the Mill Hill Fathers
and there was no answer.I thought,“what if someone in my house suffered a heart attack and i needed a priest to administer the Last Rites”?Would i have to run round to the Convent to get one of the retired priests to do it?
It has made me more aware that i need to steer clear of serious sin,in case i go suddenly and there is not a priest immediately available

Yeah, that’s why I didn’t use certainty of faith. When I say reasonably certain, I mean moral certainty, which is less than certainty of faith, which is something we really cannot have short of divine Revelation. But if one at least tries to wholeheartedly dispose himself to love of God (as I suggested by meaning the words of the Act of Contrition), I can’t see how God would not extend his infinite mercy nevertheless. The other motivations, such as fear will definitely be there, and can diminish certainty of perfect contrition. But an act of the will, even feeble, can still serve to dispose the person to perfect contrition (keeping in mind that love, is of the will, not of the emotions).

I suppose your use of the term well-founded hope is appropriate too.

Like others have said, an act of perfect contrition or reciting the divine mercy chaplet is your best bet. If you don’t think you’re capable of perfect contrition, ask God to grant it to you. Better yet, get to confession while you have the chance and try to stay clear of sin.

As a side note, I’ve always thought that since a priest is a priest forever (You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek), perhaps God may send the soul of one of His priests from Heaven to administer last rites to those who want them. I don’t necessarily know if it happens, but it’s a thought.

I guess I see where you were coming from. As much as I’ve seen people overblow theological concepts on the forums, though, I try to avoid phrasing that might be misinterpreted dangerously (such as giving one too much confidence in one’s own contrition:rolleyes: ).

All responses are very good here. I would add that St. Joseph is an intercessor for the dying. The Laudate app has an entire section on prayers divided into categories. One is prayers for the dying.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.