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The priest ran toward the altar as if hell itself followed on his heels.

He didn’t have much time, minutes at best. Still, that might be enough. The others would have a warning at least. It was the best he could do, given the circumstances.

Racing up the steps, he crossed to the tabernacle and spun the dials on the lock with trembling fingers. He set the second one incorrectly and had to do it again, losing precious seconds in the process. Opening the tabernacle, he bent one knee, genuflected, and then removed the ciborium from inside the blessed chamber.

From the other end of the church he could hear them banging on the inside of the sacristy door. He’d locked it behind him, but he didn’t expect it to hold them for long.

Opening the ciborium and removing one of the communion wafers, he begged for Christ’s forgiveness for his sins and then placed the wafer on his tongue. From years past the voice of Father Jerome, his old seminary professor, came to him.

“Viaticum, from the Latin ‘via tecum’, meaning ‘provisions for the journey.’ The final rite in the sacrament of Extreme Unction, the giving of the Eucharist ensures that the dying do not die alone, but have Christ with them in their final moments just as He has been with them in life.”

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