After the testimony comes the reception of the Holy Spirit (per modum viatici). "Sacred writers", according to the Catechism of the Council of Trent, "called it 'the Viaticum', as well because it is the spiritual bread by which we are supported in our mortal pilgrimage, as also because it prepares for us a passage to eternal glory and happiness." The concordant teaching of theologians, as well as the inference from the uniform discipline of the Universal Church, is that there is a Divine precept binding one to receive the Holy Spirit when in danger of death.
At this time the communicant is exempted from the traditional natural fast. The Council of Constance witnesses to the custom of the Universal Church in this matter, as well as the Roman Ritual (I, cap. iv, 4) says: "potest quidem Viaticum brevi morituris dari non jejunis". This privilege may be enjoyed repeatedly by the dying person during the illness. Strictly speaking, it is not extended to persons whose danger of death comes from a cause other than sickness, such as soldiers about to engage in battle or criminals about to be executed. Still, even they, as appears from a declaration of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, 21 July, 1841, may receive the Viaticum even though they are not fasting, if they find any considerable difficulty in observing the law.
So far as is possible, nothing should be omitted which can help to confer upon the administration of the Viaticum becoming solemnity. This is all the more desirable in that sometimes the demeanor of those who are present on such occasions, and even of the sick person, is not such as to betray any very alert sense of the Presence that has come to hallow this last stage of life's journey.
It is needless to add that whatever the enlightened zeal of the minister or the careful piety of the bystanders can suggest ought to be done to awaken in the communicant a special degree of fervor, a more than ordinarily penetrating faith and ardent love on the occasion of what may be his final eating of the Bread of Life.
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