QUAERITUR: Validity of matter of Hosts; adding water to Holy Water

I got this question from a reader (edited):

Dear Fr. Z,

I am a catholic from the Netherlands and I`m following youre blog for some time now. You must forgive me for my bat writing in English; I`m still Dutch.

I have some questions about valid hosts, wine and water. I think you are one of the few priest who can really give some practical answers to my questions; I`m a (part-time) sacristan and going to study for being priest in a few years; …

Question one: about the validity (spelled correctly?) of the Body and Blood of Christ: when you`ve got some particals from, say, the Body and it`s contaminated with something (like dust from the floor), that causes you for not consuming it. What should there be done with it? Burning isn`t always a practical option. I have heard that you can pour an amound of water by the host or wine, that makes it invalid. Is that thrue and if it is, what are the guidlines for such practice? (By the way: if you want to burn a consacrated host, should it be done by a priest?)

My second question is about holy water. When there is no priest around and you are in need of holy water, are you permitted to pour normal water by it, so that it is still valid? Like: one part of holy water on three parts of normal water? Or does that only works on water from, for example, Lourdes?

Thanks for youre time and answers.

Thanks for the questions.  You English is better than my Dutch, so let’s stick to English.

Q 1)  If a Host that was dropped has something on it, say, some dust from the floor, the best approach is simply to consume it.  If for some reason you cannot, then the best approach it to put the Host in a small bowl or cup and then fill it with water.  Allow the Host a couple days to disolve in the water.  Then the water should be poured down the sacrarium, like a small sink with a tube that goes into the ground: every sacristry should have one.  Otherwise, it should be poured onto the ground.   For other sacred or consecrated things that must be disposed of, they should be burned.  It is best if the priest does this himself.  Again, if possible the remains should be put down the sacrarium or directly into the earth.


Q 2) "Extending" Holy Water is not a good idea.  I suppose a tiny amount of added water might extend Holy Water, if absolutely necessary, but I would avoid it.  The better approach is to plan ahead! Make sure Father blesses the Holy Water in sufficient quantities.  It helps to have everything prepared ahead of time before he comes: lay out the book and stole and, if he is using the old Rituale Romanum the blessed salt (or salt to be exorcized and blessed).  Have everything prepared so that when he arrives it is easy for him simply to take care of the blessing.  Any priest worth his exorcized salt will be happy to do these things, but sometimes some priests of the more progressive stripe will resist dealing with sacramentals.  By laying everything out, this sort of priest will have less to grouse about and will be more likely to do it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Years ago, I was a paid sacristan at a large progressive Jesuit parish in an upscale neighborhood. They had communion under both species. They’d go through two gallons of wine in a weekend, and a third of the Precious Blood was poured down the sacrarium. Well, I was clearly uncomfortable with this, but I didn’t want a confrontation. I was advised by a priest (who is a regular commenter here, FWIW) to add enough water to a flagon of the Precious Blood, to the point where it lost its validity of form, and only then pour the results down the sacrarium. I wrote the pastor, told him what I had observed, quoted all the right documents, and told him that whatever he let anyone else do, this is what would happen on MY watch.

    No one ever gave me trouble, and my practice eventually became policy.

    Now, my understanding is that this is done only in cases of necessity, as in a case where the Precious Blood has actually been contaminated and cannot be safely consumed. I am told that priests learn these contingencies when studying sacramental theology, and hope they don’t have to resort to them. So I wouldn’t recommend this practice lightly. But in my case, short of the “communion ministers” consuming the contents of their chalices (and I was in no position to direct them to do that), or short of consuming it myself (and I would have been passed out by noon), it was the only way.

    I was only there three years, and have never been in that position since. I’d just as soon not be.

  2. Eric says:

    From the “Someone once told me…” files:

    Someone once told me that in an emergency (i.e. someone who is dying asks to be baptized but there isn’t time to get a priest) that a lay person can bless water and baptize the person. Is this true?

  3. Eric: No, they may not bless water, but, yes, they can baptize, provided that water is used and that person pronounces the Trinitarian formula while pouring water in such a way that it flows on the skin.

  4. Garrett says:


    Can I ask your reasoning against adding water to holy water? I’ve read in a few places that you can add any amount of regular water to holy water under 50% of the amount of holy water, and, voila! More holy water.

    Apparently this can only be done once and can’t be repeated. In other words, one can’t keep “diluting” holy water more than once per “batch.” Which really doesn’t make sense to me. If you have 100 fl. oz. of holy water, and you add 49 fl. oz. of regular water, now you have 149 fl. oz. of holy water. Got that part. But if that’s all holy water, why can’t we then add another 70 fl. oz. of regular water to this holy water? Is this “second” holy water somehow ontologically different than the first?

    My real point here is that whoever/whatever officially ruled in the first place that one could add regular water to holy water shouldn’t have done it. I know my questions are of the “How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?” variety, but those above are meant to highlight the silliness of it all. It’s just a bit frustrating, and seems like a bit of that famous Roman legalism!

  5. RichR says:


    Lay people can no longer purify vessels in this country, so there shouldn’t even be a need to have a “policy” for them.

    That having been said, even if priests are purifying the vessels, they should be consuming the diluted species, then adding more water, and only then, pouring the second dilution down the sacrarium. I’m not sure of the seriousness of diluting the Precious Blood simply so you don’t have to consume it(please check), but disposing of the sacred species down the sacrarium incurs a latae sententiae excommunication. Serious stuff!

    [107.] In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, “one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state”. To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species. Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down.

    (Redemptionis Sacramentum)

    If they are routinely having that much Precious Blood leftover, they should err on the side of running out.

  6. Tim Ferguson says:


    Don’t think of it as Roman legalism, think of it as Catholic provision for any and all circumstances.

    The provision for “diluting” holy water was done with a recognition of the nature of water to obtain and maintain an equilibrium. Try it with colored water sometime – if you have clear water and pour in a small amount of red-colored water, the colored water does not stay long as a separate entity, the water all takes on a slightly reddish hue. The colored water and the clear water blend. Similarly, a 49% portion of “unholy” water quickly fuses and blends with the holy water, so much that someone blessing himself with even a few small drops of the water is bound to be blessing himself with a portion of holy water.

    Since grace is not dispensed in proportion to the amount of holy water used (e.g., someone who pours a cup of holy water on his forehead does not receive any more grace than someone who merely dips his fingertips in the water and blesses himself), “diluting” the holy water by 49% does not in any way affect the benediction of the water, nor the grace one receives from its use.

    The reason the Church has seen fit to limit this to one “dilution” (though I’m not aware of any specific legislation on this matter – I’ll have to dig around in the fontes of the Old Code to see if there are any decrees from the SCR on it) is to drive home the notion that this is merely an exceptional provision – for emergencies or real need. It is not to be the common practice.

    As Fr. Z rightly points out, the better approach is to plan ahead. One major downside of the decline in numbers of priests and the multiple parishes a priest is often assigned to is the fact that we’ve lost, in some places, the notion of the priest as custodian of the shrine. It is part of his responsibility – I would argue a major responsibility – to preserve the church and the elements of worship – to at least supervise those things needed for the sacraments and sacramentals, including making certain to provide for an adequate amount of holy water.

  7. RichR, thou hast writ: “Lay people can no longer purify vessels in this country….”

    This was fifteen years ago. I am aware of the mind of the Church on this subject, and took pains (including the risk to my position) to make this known to the powers that be, knowing the seriousness of the matter in question. It was also a situation where the priests were not as involved in “cleaning up” as they should have been. A number of factors (which are easy to point out from your armchair) were out of my control at the time.

    I am also more than aware of the penalty for disposing the Sacred Species down the sacrarium, which is why I took steps to ensure that it was no longer the Sacred Species. As to consuming what is leftover, we are talking about a considerable amount here, which was something else over which I had no control. In making my decision at the time that I did (again, before the “indult” for purifying vessels expired), I sought the most reliable counsel at my disposal, have since had it verified independently by equally reliable counsel, and am satisfied that I acted in a way to protect the Blessed Sacrament from harm.

    I am thankful that I no longer have this position, and as much as rewarding as the experience was overall at the time, I would be unlikely to accept it were it offered to me. It is also why I would never recommend “utraquism” as a regular practice. The risks, especially in a larger setting, are simply unjustified.

  8. “I know my questions are of the ‘How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?’ variety…”

    By the way, in case anyone ever asks that question, the answer is: “All of them.”

  9. Tim says:

    This may seem a little off topic – but I am sure a fellow WDTPRS poster can help me. I am wondering where I might find some blessed salt. I don’t think that my parish priest holds this custom. Would it be acceptable to request it by mail from a parish that does? Does anyone have a suggestion or might be able to assist me in locating some? It seems to be a “lost” sacramental.

  10. Christine says:

    I know of a parish where the very liberal pastor told the Church office manager to bless the “holy water” when they were low, and anything else anyone wanted blessed.

  11. CK says:

    Does anyone have a suggestion or might be able to assist me in locating some? It seems to be a “lost” sacramental.

    You can just take regular salt to your priest and ask him to bless it. Most priests do not know of the blessing for exorcised salt…and many just even give the regular blessing for salt in their own way since they are not that familiar with this. So it is good to have on hand for them an official blessing for both. I’ve been given the wording by a good priest.

    Maybe Fr. Z could give us such prayers.

    Blessed salt is really making a come back – esp. with certain healing priests or those who are official exorcists who give talks or retreats. And they will bless huge supplies brought by the retreatants. It is good to scatter such salt around your homes…even neighborhoods…these days.

  12. TerryC says:

    There is really no excuse for there being Precious Blood in excess after Communion. Most Churches have fairly consistent attendance (Christmas and Easter notwithstanding.) It is a fairly easy matter to calculate the amount of wine necessary for each Mass so that all is consumed or there is only a small bit left.
    The EMC or deacon who is administering the Blood should empty the cup by consuming the last of the Blood prior to turning the cup over to Father to be purified. If the sacristan, head EMC or whoever does their task right there should never be very much of the Precious Blood left in each cup.

  13. TerryC says:

    Of course I am mistaken in my second but last sentence. The deacon can purify the vessels himself.

  14. “There is really no excuse for there being Precious Blood in excess after Communion. Most Churches have fairly consistent attendance…”

    …yeah, I know, and some problems look a lot simpler from a distance. At the parish where I worked, they took Communion under both species to an extreme. One Sunday I showed up and there was less than a gallon of wine in storage. I knew this was less than half their normal supply, but I also knew my higher responsibility to the parish, to ensure that all Masses could be validly celebrated until a new supply came in on Tuesday morning. So this humble sacristan instituted emergency measures, doling out less than half the usual amount. For all the explaining I did, you would have thought it was your daughter suddenly not allowed to go to the prom. I was being screamed at in front of the altar.

    Honestly, some people need to really grow up. But until then, in parishes across the globe, these aging hippie children are in positions of responsibility for which they are obviously unprepared. “How long, O Lord….”

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