Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Last Rites?

Someone asked me the question the other day: could/would I give Last Rites to a dying soldier? My knee-jerk reaction was no, but then I thought about it for a little while. This is a good question, and like any sort of religious act that falls outside what a Lutheran would normally do, I would have to ask two questions: would the faith of the soldier in question allow me to do so, and would my faith allow me to do so?

First, the issue of Last Rites (also called Annointing of the Sick): this is a Roman Catholic sacrament, and only ordained, Roman Catholic priests are supposed perform them. There are exceptions, but I don't know if this would be one of those exceptions, and, honestly, Ill have to ask this question of a priest before I go.

Second, is the question of whether or not I would be comfortable doing last rites. I don't know enough about them to answer yes or no. There are certainly some things I would do that I might not be comfortable with, but as long as it offered Christian comfort to a dying person, and it didn't contradict my faith I'd be fine. An example: when I was working as a hospital chaplain, one of the spanish speaking priests asked if I wanted to go help him "confirm" a dying young girl. Confirmation, for the Roman Catholics, is a sacrament. I don't agree with that, and didn't think she needed to be confirmed before dying. However, it also wasn't something that blatantly contradicted my faith either, so I was glad to help. Last Rites might fall under that category. Do I believe a special prayer is necessary before dying? No. Might I perform them, if I was allowed, and the circumstance was very specific? Maybe. It's about using pastoral judgment.


Anonymous Jeff said...


What may be perceived and received as "last rites" by a dying soldier may actually be closer to a commendation of the dying into the hands of our loving Lord. In either case it will probably be comforting to receive prayer with anointing with oil. -- Your colleague in Christ (Jeff N - Utah)

6:18 AM  

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