Canon law says that anointing of the sick is to be done to someone having attained the age of reason, same as reception of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance.

However, as "Food for the Journey", if a child is near death, do they usually still receive the Eucharist as Viaticum?

If you read the Catholic encyclopedia entry I linked to on viaticum it says that they are. But, I'm not sure if it's outdated because it seems to conflict with Canon Law. As this answer states younger children receiving communion used to be normal, but not any more, is this the same for Viaticum or is it totally separate from the sacrament of anointing of the sick (other than the fact that they both usually take place before death).

1 Answer 1


I think your question is covered by Can. 913:

Can. 913 §1. The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion.

§2. The Most Holy Eucharist, however, can be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion reverently.

While that does not explicitly say, "if and only if," I believe it is fairly clear.

As a side note: when it comes to questions like, "who should receive a sacrament?" the person who really decides is priest (or, occasionally the Eucharistic Minister) present. It could very well be that a 3½ year old or someone outside of the Catholic Church could receive when they are close to death (my son understood the Eucharist was special at 2½, but I doubt a priest would have let him receive...).

  • So, it is licit for a priest to decide to administer Anointing of the Sick to a child, but it is not necessarily licit for a child to participate during those communal Anointing of the Sick liturgies?
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 16, 2012 at 19:37
  • To be precise, "the Eucharistic Minister" can only correctly refer to a priest or bishop. The use of that term for a lay distributor of communion (or even a deacon) is a misuse which was rejected in Redemptionis Sacramentum. And I would hope that ordinarily in cases of danger of death, it would be an actual priest sent.
    – eques
    Oct 23, 2018 at 16:38

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