Last Rites

Chapter three began with a turn of events: “all of the women were released except one.” Even though Patchett did not clarify right away who the one was, the reader can assume it was most likely the beautiful Opera soprano, Roxane Coss. The terrorists kept her around as a valuable bargaining piece, as if she was a poker chip. Seeing the love of his life not walk through the doors of the Vice President’s house, her accompanist stormed back in in a rage of fury; wherever Roxane goes, he goes.

Throughout the day spent with the terrorists the accompanist’s illness worsened. Unsure of what was wrong with him, even though we later found out it was an insulin deficiency due to diabetes, all anyone could do was just stand and watch. One hostage, however, had a different plan. Instead of just merely watching this man die, Father Arguedas decided to perform a Catholic ritual for Christopf called “last rites”.

Last rites is a sacrament for anointing the sick; this can be done to those who are dying, gravely ill, or are about to have a serious operation so that they will have a smooth recovery of their health and spiritual strength. Even though it use to be administered to just those who were in great danger of dying, the term has been ” more broadly used to refer to the reception of all of the Last Sacraments—Confession, Holy Communion, and the Anointing of the Sick. So even though General Alfredo did not want Father Arguedas to perform last rites for Christopf because he was not dying, technically one does not have to be dying to have their last rites given to them; they just have to be gravely sick, just as Christopf was. (

The reasoning and explanation behind where last rites came from tie in to its biblical roots. In biblical times, “Christ sent His disciples out to preach, ‘they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them’ (Mark 6:13)” (Richert). The Bibly clearly states, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15, ESV). The sacrament was created “during Christ’s sending out of His disciples, it was confined to the men who would become the original bishops of the Church” (Richert). For this reason, only priests, including bishops, have the authority to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. (“BibleGateway.”)

Unsure of what the sacrament needed to be performed or how it is performed, I then turned to research on needs and necessities of last rites. I found that the most essential element of the rite is a priest laying hands on the sick and anointing him with “blessed oil”. This oil is typically olive oil blessed by a bishop, hence “blessed oil”, but in the case of an emergency, any vegetable oil will suffice. The last fundamental component for administering last rites is praying “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” Father Arguedas’ prayer was a little bit different: “God the father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for forgiveness of sins; through the Ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.” Even though Father Arguedas’ prayer is not verbatim to the one I found, it is fairly similar in that they have the same meaning, just said a little differently. One can assume it is due to language and cultural differences or possibly just due to the priest himself; even though I could not find if each priest has his own way of performing it, that could be a reason why there are different recitations of the sacrament. Even though the prayer may vary, all that matters is that it forgives the sick of his or her sins as to give him peace and mercy. (Richert)

Coming from a Catholic family, I found this to be very interesting. Even though my mother is not a practicing Catholic, we still go to my family’s Catholic church up north for holidays and I attended a Catholic school in Kindergarten and the first grade. It was interesting to learn more about my family’s religion and how rituals are performed, why they are performed, and where they originate from.

-Courtney Fesette

Works Cited

“BibleGateway.” James 5:14-15 ESV. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.

Richert, Scott P. “Last Rites.” N.p., n.d. Web.

Richert, Scott P. “The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.” N.p., n.d. Web.


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