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When does somebody ask for the last rites?

HEAR YE! HEAR YE! The Court is now in session. Prepare to hear the sentence.

Question: When does somebody ask for the last rites? How long until the sacrament expires and you need another one? Can I scatter my mom’s ashes up at the farm where she used to like to hang out?

Canon 1004 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (the 1983 Code of Canon Law) when translated into English reads:

  • 1. The anointing of the sick can be administered to a member of the faithful who, having reached the use of reason, begins to be in danger due to sickness or old age.
  • 2. This sacrament can be repeated if the sick person, having recovered, again becomes gravely ill or if the condition becomes more grave during the same illness.

Note that it is not a question of the sacrament expiring. Rather it is a change in the condition of the suffering person which would make the graces of the sacrament available to them once again.

Paragraph 3 of Canon 1176 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (the 1983 Code of Canon Law) when translated into English reads in part:

… the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.

The General Instruction for the Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 19 states in part, “For the final disposition of the body, it is the ancient Christian custom to bury or entomb the bodies of the dead; cremation is permitted, …”

The teaching of the Catholic Church on the handling of cremains is clear – they are to be treated with the same respect and dignity as the deceased body. The cremains are, after the funeral rites, to be interred either in a columbarium or a cemetery or graveyard. So, while you can spread your mother’s ashes, you may not do so.

THIS COURT IS IN RECESS!

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