What Happens If I Can’t Receive Last Rites in the Hospital?

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals are restricting who can enter their buildings. There are limitations on family visitors, even for non-COVID patients, and while some hospitals allow priests to administer last rites to patients, some do not allow any visitors, even priests. This leads some Catholics to worry about the state of their souls if they are not able to go to Confession in their final days.

A listener named Israel called-in to The Patrick Madrid Show to ask about a family member who recently died from COVID-19. This relative was able to speak to a priest via Facetime before his death, but the hospitals in his area do not allow priests to visit. Israel asked Patrick if his relative was likely in heaven because he received last rites before his death.

Patrick responded, “So those were not the last rites, they were not the sacraments. They were hopefully a comforting opportunity for him to pray with this man, but sadly there was no sacrament given to him because you can’t give them over Zoom.”

Israel expressed that he was worried that was the case and was saddened by Patrick’s response. But Patrick encouraged him to not give up hope.

Patrick told Israel, “In his final days or hours or whenever this took place, my guess is that the priest asked him if he loved God and if he was sorry for his sins. Hopefully, the priest asked those kinds of questions. And even if he couldn’t verbally respond, even if just in his own heart he was saying yes to the Lord and he was truly sorry for his sins (not so much because of punishment but because of his love for God) then he would have died in a state of grace.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraph 1452:

When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

So although we should all ensure our souls are prepared for death by frequent Confession, this paragraph of the Catechism teaches that even if we are in a state of mortal sin and aren’t able to receive last rites and go to  Confession, there is still hope.

“Let’s say you have a mortal sin on your soul and you can’t get to Confession because they won’t let the priest in and you subsequently die,” Patrick said. “If you’ve made a sincere Act of Contrition you die in a state of grace. In which case, he may have to spend some time in Purgatory before he can see Our Lord face to face, but if he died in a state of grace then he’ll go to heaven.”

“So your job now, and the job of your family members as well, is to pray for him,” Patrick added. “Pray the Rosary for him, offer Masses for him, and remember him in your prayers because that will help him. If he happens to be in Purgatory it will help him get to heaven faster. Don’t lose hope.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. Central on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Join us in praying the all who have died by participating in Relevant Radio’s Novena of Masses for the Holy Souls. This novena starts today (November 16) and will end on November 24. Join us for Mass at Noon and 7:30 p.m. Central and submit the names of your departed loved ones to be included in our intentions during this Novena of Masses.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.