Spiders in chalices… again

You might recall the discourse on the consecration of a chalice in which I, inter alia, described 

"If a spider should fiendishly jump into the chalice after the consecration, and the priest can’t bring himself to drink it down, it is to be fished out with a pin, burned and, yes, put down the sacrarium."


These things really do happen.

WDTPRSer Maureen wrote to tell me this:

Hermeneutic of Continuity posted about how Mementoes of the English Martyrs was up on archive.org. This is pretty cool, as it is a sort of daybook with different martyr stuff for every day in the calendar.

Anyway, it notes on the page for March 1st, that Ven. Stephen Rowsam (in addition to having visions and having birds circle him singing while he prayed, sorta like Snow White) one time did have a spider fall in his chalice!

"Once when saying Mass a large spider covered with dirt fell from the roof into the chalice after consecration, but he consumed it from reverence to the Precious Blood."

I will stick to the other method.


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  1. torontonian says:

    The ‘spider-in-chalice’ story seems to have found its way into numerous saints’ lives in the late medieval period. A 14th c. life of St. Francis has this version:

    “Iste dicendo Missam reperit in sanguine Christi in calice araneam, et nolens araneam sanguine Christi intinctam extra proiicere, calicem cum aranea bibit. Post ibi fricans crus et scalpens, ubi pruritum sentiebat, ipsa aranea sine Fratris laesione aliqua ex crure prodivit.”

  2. torontonian says:

    Hmm, just realized that\’s rather odd being that St. Francis was never actually ordained a priest as far as I know, but the “Liber de Conformitate” is apparently not always reliable: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02316b.htm

  3. B. says:

    AFAIK the first mention of this was in the “Vita Conradi” about St. Conrad of Constance, who was bishop of Constance from 934-975.
    St. Conrad (today Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau) is always depicted with a chalice (and often a spider in it).

  4. Legisperitus says:

    So the spider is supposed to have emerged miraculously out of his leg? I guess if it had that kind of subtility, it could have passed through the stomach wall and other obstacles as well. Still, yecch.

  5. Kradcliffe says:

    All I can say is… I hate spiders and it’s a good thing I can’t be ordained because I’d shriek like the girl I am and probably spill the Precious Blood.

  6. Fr Ó Buaidhe says:

    I never used a pall until I came to my present parish just over six years ago. The church is twenty five yards for the shoreline. The amount of flies (beach variety with funny legs) which come into the church in the summer is truly incredible and has to be seen to be believed. After some unpleasant incidents I cannot now imagine saying Mass without a pall. It was all there in the EF for a reason!

    As a related issue, I have also had to obtain a set of cruets with midgie-proof lids since I got fed up fishing out beasts before pouring the wine into the chalice.

  7. SuzyQ says:

    Um … why not cover the chalice with a pall after the consecration to prevent spiders from getting in the Precious Blood the first place? I’ve seen several priests celebrating the OF do that, especially in the fall when there are lots of flies around.

    I’ve also seen a bee end up in the Precious Blood. The priest fished it out and put it on the corporal, but I didn’t see what happened to the bee after Mass was finished.

  8. RosieC says:

    So do priests keep a pin handy for such occasions?

  9. Many years ago, I was a paid sacristan for a large Jesuit parish in a major city (which shall remain nameless). They had Communion under both species. There were several chalices at each large Mass, and as much as a third of the Precious Blood would be left over. People (including other sacristans on the rotation) were told to simply pour it down the sacrarium. Well, I couldn’t stand the thought of the Eucharist being profaned in this way. Also I needed the money. So I took the matter under advisement. I would add water to the remaining Precious Blood, to the point where it would lose its form and thus be invalid, and only then poured it down the sacrarium. I also wrote a detailed letter to the pastor, quoting the proper documentation, and saying what I would do. I also said it was up to him what others did.

    Before the year was out, they were all doing it my way.

    You might ask why the “extraordinary ministers” did not consume what was leftover. Well, they didn’t want to. After all, so many people had been using the common cup. That should have told them something, but they’d need a clue for that. Obviously, this is one of those things you don’t recommend on a regular basis, and it’s one of those contingencies that seminarians learn in sacramental theology lectures. Thankfully, I was only there for three years. After that experience, I didn’t take communion from the chalice. Well, not very often.

    I also stopped taking communion in the hand after working there. Don’t ask me about that.

  10. Tony says:

    I think the venerable Fr. Rowsam was demonstrating heroic virtue and giving an example to priests by consuming the spider. If it’s true, of course.

  11. LCB says:

    What if the spider is endangered, and killing the spider would be a federal crime?

  12. Kradcliffe says:

    Fr Ó Buaidhe, midgies are something awful!

  13. sigil7 says:

    I’ve seen a fly (on two different occasions) fall into the chalice while serving EF Masses…which is what the handy pin holding the maniple to the alb works nicely for. The priest impaled the offending fly with the pin and then roasted him in the altar candle.

    The second priest I saw this happen to “with great heroic virtue” swallowed the fly.

    We won’t even discuss the time I was MC at an OF Mass where the slightly senile old permanent deacon–to the horror of the celebrant and all looking on–saw a fly buzzing around the altar, perilously close to the sacred species, and while the celebrant was holding the host in his fingers immediately prior to his communion, the deacon saw the fly land right next to the chalice, grabbed the paten, and with a loud ::clang:: whacked the fly with the paten, smearing the fly all over the bottom of the paten and the corporal… The metallic echo throughout the church during the silence of the priest’s communion was deafening.

  14. Victor says:

    Well, after all – isn’t that what the Corporal is there for? ;)

  15. Tom Ryan says:

    I’ve often wondered how so called Eucharistic Ministers would handle a chalice with a dollop of phlegm left behind.

  16. JSP says:

    In the Roman Catholic Church, pouring the consecrated wine, the Blood of Christ, or the Host down a sacrarium is never permitted.[2] 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.”[3] This applies to 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.[4]

    ^ Redemptionis Sacramentum 107

    ^ Ibid. 194

    ^ Cf. Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Response to dubium, 3 July 1999: AAS 91 (1999) p. 918.

  17. Thanks Tom for that pleasant thought!

    Flies do end up in the Precious Blood. It happened to me as a newly ordained priest. The critter was flying around and met its end at the elevation when it was flying down and I was elevating the chalice. A pall would not be helpful in that case, though I always use one. As we administered communion under both species, I had also consecrated two other chalices. I received from one of them and after Mass removed the critter with a pin and consumed the Precious Blood. It’s the only time I was happy that we distributed under both species. The critter was cremated and sent down the sacrarium.

    Of course, we weren’t taught how to deal with this in the seminary. Other things were more important like putting an end to Eucharisting exposition and benediction. Thank goodness I had overheard two older priests discussing what to do if such things happen. Most of my classmates would have poured the Precious Blood down the sacrarium at best.

  18. JSP:

    It is good to make things like this clear. Here’s the part that I wrote which may NOT have been clear: “I would add water to the remaining Precious Blood, to the point where it would lose its form and thus be invalid, and only then poured it down the sacrarium.” I spoke to more than one very reliable priest (including one who frequently comments here) before reaching this conclusion.

    And like I said before, “this is one of those things you don’t recommend on a regular basis…”

    I don’t want people thinking I’ve been excommunicated all these years.

  19. Transitional Deacon says:

    Because of the bishops’ blanket approval of communion under both kinds, many parishes offer it at every single Mass… and at this point it would be quite a headache for some pastors to try to bring an end to the practice.

    I have been thinking about how to handle this from the pastoral perspective. It is difficult to make changes to long-standing practices like this and requires some creativity.

    I think, first of all, the “germ card” is one that we can play. With all these “super bugs” going around nowadays and also quite a spectrum in personal hygiene among Massgoers, I think it could be argued that communion under both kinds is not a good idea for “health reasons”. Thus the flu season would be a good time to introduce the change in practice.

    The second thing to do is to continue teaching people about the doctrine of concomitance during the flu season, so that they feel relatively assured that they are not “getting less” and will be better prepared when it becomes clear that Father doesn’t plan to bring back communion under both kinds at every single Mass.

    The third thing is to offer communion under both kinds from that point on only at “special occasions”, as the GIRM more or less envisions — major solemnities, weddings (for the couple, maybe, but not for everyone else), ordinations, etc.

    The fourth thing is to consider offering holy communion under intinction for all other Sundays thereafter. This could be done in combination with a plan of reducing the number of Extraordinary Ministers — i.e., if it is a traditionally-shaped church where everyone comes down the center aisle to receive, then, instead of having two or more ciboria and two or more chalices off to each side, Father could stand in the center giving communion under intinction, and two extraordinaries could stand to either side of him with only a ciborium (for those who don’t wish to receive via intinction), a little farther ahead (so that the people that come to Father could walk behind them and there be no traffic jams).

    Thus there would be a total of one ordinary minister and only two extraordinaries, and the line would still go pretty fast, and those who want to receive under both kinds could, and more people would be receiving on the tongue also, probably.

    All of this is fairly abstract and removed from actual parish situations, but I think it is helpful nonetheless to brainstorm on the pastoral level how to handles these things, and then see what can be done in the concrete situation.

  20. A little while ago this morning, in reaction to this entry, a priest friend in MN gave me a call to relay an anecdote to illustrate my point.

    He told me a story about once during Mass, just after the consecration of the Precious Blood, a fly zoom into the chalice under the pall just as he was putting the pall on the chalice! I wound up drinking the fly later on.

    In Italy it happened to me that a spider dropped from the ceiling into the chalice before I could replace the pall.

    It happens.

    I think we need a new phrase for the blog, to indicate doing something that is personally unpleasant when the rubrics or the law or commonsense or decorum indicate.

  21. Derik Castillo says:

    Dear Fr. Z.

    May I suggest “Consume the spider”?

  22. Deborah says:

    I recall a few times while in the sacristy seeing bugs floating/swimming around in the cruet with the wine and alerting the sacristan before Mass. Different than the Precious Blood obviously but a good place to check before Mass begins to prevent the insects from being poured out into the chalice.

    I also witnessed a very old priest use the pall to swat and kill and then calmly place it back over the chalice after shaking the bug off. Could this be another use of the pall..fly swatter? (just kidding but interesting how another commentor witnessed the same thing)

  23. Cally says:


    Say the black,
    Do the red,
    Consume the spider?

    It has a nice ring!

  24. Fr. Kowalski says:

    I had a very rewarding and uplifting spider ‘encounter’. The spider, whilst I was a’celebratin’ liturgy felt compelled to dive into the chalice. Being the good sport, I threw him a lifeline and fished him out. I then baptized him [since he had already made his “communion”] but not before allowing him to complete a shortened RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Arachnids]. Long story short, he’s now very happy and hangs out [above] the altar during liturgy.

    Didn’t mean any disrespect [to my fellow visitors here or to any spiders]- just having some fun.

    And btw, I love the new motto about consuming the spider- although my spider friend isn’t as fond of it. lol

  25. Maureen says:

    This thread demonstrates one of the principles of story motifs. Some motifs occur in a lot of different peoples’ life stories because they never happen in real life; and some occur in a lot of life stories because they really happen to a lot of people!

    Of course, regarding something like this as a test of priestly virtue rather than as just something that happens — that might be something that would vary over time and place.

    On the bright side,

    “I knew an old priest who swallowed a fly.
    Now I know why he swallowed the fly.
    It had to die.”

  26. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    This seems timely. We had moths in our chalice yesterday, but we noticed them before consecration!

  27. Bro: Moths? That is something I have never heard. Whew!

  28. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr. Z,

    They weren’t luna moths! Two of the brothers make honey, and the moths that infest the honeycomb can fly everywhere.

  29. Bro AJK: By the oddest of synchronisities, I have just encountered this issue of moths inimical to honey bees this very minute in the beginning of The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian, as well as some other pests. I am listening to an unabridged audio recording.

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