Visitation of the sick

What to do when a priest visits with the Blessed Sacrament

When Communion of the Sick is Administered

It happens in the ordinary course of life, that at a certain moment, the Catholic is unable to fulfil the Church’s commandment to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation due to illness.

The Church has foreseen the physical incapacity of her children, and so demands her priest to visit the sick of his parish. If the soul cannot come to our Lord, our Lord will come to the soul.

It must be noted, though, that priests are not clairvoyants and must be notified by the sick that they require a visit with the Blessed Sacrament.

Preparation Required

What a grace it is to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in one’s own home! This is the special privilege of the sick: to be paid a visit by the greatest of all doctors—Jesus Christ Himself. Considering the infinite dignity of the Visitor, the faithful should take the greatest care to prepare themselves spiritually and materially for their audience with their Redeemer.

Spiritual Preparation

First of all, the soul should take care to excite a longing for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for some time in advance. The less frequently the sacrament is received, the more preparation is necessary.

One ought to say one’s prayers, pray one’s rosary, read spiritual books with this one thought in mind: Tomorrow (or the day after...) Jesus Christ is coming to my house; to my soul. And so the sick should pray the good Lord to help them to receive Him well.


Under ordinary circumstances, the faithful are required by law to fast at least one hour to the moment of receiving the Holy Sacrament (Can. 919 §1), but the compassionate Church dispenses the sick from this obligation, and not the sick only, but even those caring for them (Can. 919 §3).

Naturally, those who are yet able to fast are highly encouraged to do so, fasting being one of the best means to prepare for Communion.

Since the faithful are always given the opportunity to confess before receiving Communion, those who intend to receive the sacrament of penance should also take care to examine their conscience in advance.

Material Preparation

Regarding the second part of the preparation for the sick call:

  • – A small table should be set up in the place where Holy Communion is to be given
  • Upon the table is spread a white cloth, whereupon a crucifix is stood between two wax candles.
  • A dish or small glass should also be nearby containing clean ordinary water
  • Ideally, a communion cloth will also be at hand to be spread under the chin of the sick at the moment of Communion.

Arrival of the Priest

In earlier times of faith, the priest would walk accompanied by a procession of servers with candles and bells to warn all of the passing of the Eucharistic King. But now, in these “dark ages” where servers are lacking and ignorance of the reverence due to the Eucharist prevails, the priest will often make the journey alone, with no external sign of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

Upon entering the house, the priest should be met at the door by the sick person or an attendee who awaits silently with a lighted candle. With due regard to the person of Jesus Christ, the ordinary civilities are best left unsaid, and the priest led to the altar.

As he enters the sick-room, he says Pax huic domui ("Peace to this house") to which the answer is given Et omnibus habitantibus in ea ("and to all those who dwell herein").

Those who are able to kneel should now do so. The priest then goes on to sprinkle the room with the holy water.

Then, as directed by the Roman Ritual, he offers to hear the confession of the sick. Should this be desired, all others retire from the room, and the sacrament of penance is administered in the ordinary manner .

The priest will call the helpers or family members back to the room where they again kneel in silent reverence while the priest prepares to administer Holy Communion.

The Confiteor is now said by the sick person (or another if he is unable), either in Latin or in the vernacular after which absolution is given.

The Domine non sum dignus is then recited and communion is given (the sick person holding the white cloth under the chin).

On ordinary visits, Communion is administered with the usual formula ("May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul unto life everlasting"), but if the sick person is considered to be not far from death, the form for viaticum (literally, that which is taken for a journey) is pronounced: "Receive, brother (or sister) as viaticum the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ and may He keep you from the malignant enemy and lead you to life everlasting. Amen."

If the sick person has a dry mouth, it may be necessary for him to take a few sips of water to help him consume the Sacred Host.

The priest then washes his fingers in the dish and then goes on to say a short prayer, asking that the Communion received will profit the sick in soul and body.

He finishes the ritual with a simple blessing (given with the Blessed Sacrament should he have more Hosts with him).


With the little ceremony over, it is now time for the sick to pray in thanksgiving, with which the priest may assist by suggesting a decade of the rosary or some other prayers.

After this, the priest may stay a little longer to encourage the sick person and his family with a few words, but if the Blessed Sacrament is still present in one or more hosts, the same reverence should be continued and the conversation should be restrained.

After the Departure of the Priest

With the priest gone, the sick should return to quiet prayer in union with our Lord and ask Him for the healing graces that He mercifully gave to so many while He still walked the earth.

The sick have many needs and our Lord will never fail to listen to their prayers and grant them great consolation when the sacrament is received worthily.

Rewards of the Priest

It is not only the patient who is consoled, my dear brethren, the consolation is also the priest’s when he knows that he has both done his duty and enabled a soul to participate more fully in the Divinity... bringing more glory to God in His Mystical Body. Deo gratias.

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