Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 03 December |
Saint of the Day: St. Francis Xavier
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

What is "viaticum" in the Catholic Church?


Robert Cheaib | Pixabay

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/23/20

Viaticum is a term used for the reception of Holy Communion by a sick person on their deathbed.

Viaticum is a term developed by the Catholic Church that has a long history and much symbolism. Strictly speaking the word “viaticum” is used in the Church to denote the reception of Holy Communion by a sick person on their deathbed.

This definition is reflected in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Viaticum is the Holy Eucharist received by those who are about to leave this earthly life and are preparing for the journey to eternal life. Communion in the body and blood of Christ who died and rose from the dead, received at the moment of passing from this world to the Father, is the seed of eternal life and the power of the resurrection.

The word is derived from an ancient Mediterranean tradition of a meal shared by those setting out on a journey. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains the rich history of this word.

Among the ancient Greeks the custom prevailed of giving a supper to those setting out on a journey. This was called hodoiporion “Convivium, quod itineris comitibus præbetur” (Hedericus, “Lex. græc-lat.”). The provision of all things necessary for such a journey, viz. food, money, clothes, utensils and expense, was called ephodion. The adjectival equivalent in Latin of both these words is viaticus, i.e. “of or pertaining to a road or journey.”

For this reason “viaticum” is often referred to as “food for the journey,” in reference to the spiritual food of the Eucharist and the journey into Everlasting Life.

The essential rite of “viaticum” is distributing Holy Communion to an individual in danger of death, but is often preceded by the sacraments of anointing of the sick and confession.

The word has a rich and beautiful history and illustrates in a poetic way the passage from this life to the next, taking with us the spiritual food we need.

Read more:
What is the Apostolic Pardon?


Read more:
How to use a sick-call crucifix

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Andrea Bocelli
J-P Mauro
Andrea Bocelli to perform live Christmas conc...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
John Burger
Priest who volunteered for COVID-19 vaccine t...
John Paul II
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's guide to a fruitful Advent
Philip Kosloski
Prayer to be watchful during Advent
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.