QUAERITUR: taking Communion with Precious Blood out to the sick

From a priest reader:

Have you ever come across a vessel designed for bringing the Precious Blood to the sick?  I have a parishioner to whom I regularly bring communion, but she is now on an absolutely no gluten diet, so even low gluten hosts are out of the question.

A friend of mine said he had seen a priest with the kind of vessel I am looking for, so I know they exist.  Do you know where I might find one?

If such a vessel exists, don’t know about it.

It usually is forbidden to reserve the Precious Blood.  I understand that some of the Precious Blood may be reserved for Communion for the sick only.  In 1967 there was an instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium as a heading "Communion under the Species of Wine Alone".  There we find that

41 … If, however, Mass is not celebrated in the presence of the sick person, the Blood of the Lord should be kept in a properly covered chalice and placed in the tabernacle after Mass. It should be taken to the sick person only if contained in a vessel which is closed in such a way as to eliminate all danger of spilling. When the sacrament is administered, that method should be chosen from the ones given in the Rites for Distribution of Communion under Both Kinds which is most suited to the case. When Communion has been given, should some of the precious Blood still remain, it should be consumed by the minister; he will also carry out the usual ablutions.

I don’t know how this would be done, except perhaps with a small glass vial designed to be sealed very tightly.  The Precious Blood would then be administered directly by the priest from that vial, rather than transferred yet again to another vessel.

I would be happy for correction on this if I got it wrong.

It seems to me that this could open up the possibility of all kinds of abuses, first through simple accidents on the part of priests or deacons and then by laypeople helping with the sick.  This should be rare indeed and ad personam according to circumstances and done only by priests, if possible.

I believe the best solution is occasionally to celebrate Mass in the sick room and give Communion with the Precious Blood on the spot.


Note that a priest posted below on his experience.  He also used an eyedropper.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. mrsmontoya says:

    I like the solution you offer in your final paragraph – bringing the entire ceremony to the person.

  2. Kelly says:

    At daily Mass in a NO-only parish, I’ve regularly seen a small transparent container-presumably glass-with golden lid used. The container is on the altar during Mass so that the wine may be consecrated. At the end of Mass the extraordinary minister is called forward to take the container/vial to the sick/homebound person who is unable to consume a consecrated host.

  3. Kelly says:

    I forgot to add that the container has wine in it and is placed on the altar prior to the start of Mass. There is no transferring of the Blood of Christ from chalice to vial.

  4. Rob Cartusciello says:

    This is purely anecodotal, but when I was a hospital chaplain we kept an eyedropper of the Precious Blood in the tabernacle. I never had cause to use it, but I believe one of the priests on staff would administer the Eucharist under this species when needed.

  5. Fr. Totton says:

    Fr. Z’s suggestion is probably the best when this is possible. I have actually used a gold-plated oil stock (with the black sealing ring in the cap) – one which I bought for this purpose and have not used except for this purpose since. It fits the description: “a vessel which is closed in such a way as to eliminate all danger of spilling.” When I have done this, usually for someone on their deathbed who is conscious, but unable to swallow the Sacred Host, I consecrated it that morning (in the vessel) and place it in the tabernacle until such time as I go to the home (or hospital). The Precious Blood is then administered as viaticum, using a glass medicine dropper, which I thoroughly and immediately purify, consuming what remains of the Precious Blood AND the water used to purify the vessel AND the medicine dropper. I have been extremely careful in this, lest the Sacred Species be profaned.

    I would be curious to hear what any other priests have done. If what I have done is verboten, I better know that too.

  6. Stephen says:

    These circumstances could not have been envisioned just a matter of years ago. It’s sad to see that gluten has become such a problem for people since it’s in so much of what we eat. That said, it has become clear that the Church should look into how to handle such things. I believe that what Fr. Z. and Fr. Totton have suggested sounds like a good option. There are those who would complain about “glass vessels” but this is clearly an extraordinary situation. It would be interesting to see what, if any, provisions any bishops have made for this in their home dioceses.

  7. Fr Steven Fisher says:

    I have used one of these in a former parish. They are (or were) available from a couple of places in the UK. Maybe Anglicans use them? I don’t know. Anyway the one we had in the parish was a small glass bottle with a screw lid. I have also seen them in plastic containers inside a metal casing. Wine was placed in it before Mass, and it was consecrated along with the chalice. Communion was administered by dipping a scruple spoon into the bottle and placing onto the tongue. The spoon was wrapped in a purificator, and the remainder of the Precious Blood drunk from the bottle by the minister. I did this weekly to a fellow for a couple of years. There is very little danger of spillage. I suppose that metal would be better than glass due to the danger of breakage. This was used not because the fellow couldn’t take gluten, but because he couldn’t swallow anything solid..

  8. Charivari Rob says:


    Thinking about guarding against spillage – what risk would there be of breakage with a glass vial? Father Totten’s solution sounds interesting, especially since he found something that would meet the standard of precious metal.

    I looked on a couple of religious supply websites, and even a lab supply website, and didn’t find anything suitable (particularly in a small size). The closest thing seemed to be a ‘small’ (2.5 oz) flask, if there was a suitable version of this ‘novelty’ item:


  9. Susan Peterson says:

    Has anyone asked any Anglican priests?
    I know they reserve under both species and take both species to the sick. Anglican parishes tend to use a higher alcohol content wine, like a sherry, and I suspect this is because it “keeps” better. But I don’t know hwat kind of vessel they use. One of the former Anglican, now Catholic priests, would surely have an answer to this question.

  10. I have taken about the same approach as described by other priests: an “eye dropper” bottle, blessed beforehand, and kept in the sacristy for this purpose. We also have one in the Mass kit taken to nursing homes.

    On the rare occasions we do this, only a priest takes the Precious Blood to the sick person, and if the Precious Blood is reserved in the tabernacle, it is only for a short time until the visit is made–i.e., later that day.

    I would be delighted to replace these somewhat pedestrian vessels with something more noble; however, I have not seen anything as suitable–i.e., as well designed to assure no spillage.

    When administering the Precious Blood to the sick person, I am concerned with getting only a tiny amount into the person’s mouth, since this is the option for those who–for whatever reason–cannot take a tiny portion of the Host–i.e., the patient cannot swallow at all, but is otherwise conscious to some degree.

    When I go to the nursing home, I do not consecrate the Precious Blood in the vial; rather, I use the eye-dropper to take a drop from the chalice to the person’s mouth. In theory, a gold straw would work, but without the bulb at the end, the risk of spillage would be increased (i.e., if my finger slipped).

    It concerns and saddens me when faithful Catholics are mistakenly denied the Eucharist at the end of their lives because of a misunderstanding of the ways the Eucharist can be administered: i.e., a tiny, tiny fragment of the Host or even a drop of the Precious Blood. It seems to me the Precious Blood is especially suited, insofar as a small drop will simply be absorbed in the person’s mouth, leading me to believe many could receive Viaticum who are now denied Him!

  11. Canon King says:

    Many Anglican supply houses sell vessels for taking the Precious Blood to the sick (although many Anglican Priests avoid the practice). C. M Almy, for example, has one on p.110 of their current “Catholic” version of the general catalog. It comes with a pyx, glass 1.5 oz bottle (sterling silver top) and a small chalice and paten.
    At seminary, we actually had a very small chalice with locking lugs on the exterior of the rim. The chalice was filled and placed on the Altar for the consecration and then a consecrated host was placed in the pyx which locked onto the chalice thereby sealing it. However, I have not seen another in the forty years since.

  12. Tom says:

    As a Celiac, I’m often surprised at how many people out there with the condition think they can’t consume even a Communion wafer without all hell occurring. I’ve had this condition for some time, and have never experienced an issue consuming the normal sized and composition Communion wafer. I can’t chug down a loaf of bread or anything, no, but the amount of gluten in the host is so minimal that it surprises me that so many think they can’t consume such a small amount.


  13. Fr. Totton says:

    Tom, Do I understand correctly that Celiac Sprue affects different people in different ways? I have known some, such as yourself, who have no trouble receiving the Sacred Host (and not even the low-gluten version made by the Benedictine Sisters at Clyde, MO) but I have also encountered those who were insistent that a separate chalice be used, for they could not even tolerate the tiny particle of the Host that is commingled with the precious blood in the priest’s chalice.

  14. Youngcatholicstl says:

    If I remember correctly, prior to Terry Schiavo’s death, the Fransican priests who were ministering to her in the hospital would put a drop of Precious Blood on her tongue with an eye dropper. I believe this was especially controversial after she was denied fluids in her final days, and the priests had to obtain special permission to give her that single drop.

  15. Mark says:

    I think the best solution would be a gold vial with something like a gold eye-dropper for a cap, but instead of a rubber bulb it would be basically just a tapered gold-straw with its own little cap that could then be removed, the priest could place his finger over it to maintain the suction, and the Precious Blood administered that way. Or perhaps a rubber bulb could be very-thinly gold plated so that it still had flexibility?

    Or, a vial so small that it would only contain about a drop’s worth anyway could be made.

    A gold vial would probably be available from Orthodox sources. For their communion to the sick they have a tiny box with a little chalice, a gold vial (for a dried particle from the Lamb), and a vial of unconsecrated wine. The particle is placed in the tiny chalice, re-wet with the consecrated wine, and then administered with a spoon like usual. Catholics priests might find the same equipment useful for bringing the Precious Blood to the sick. The gold vial could be used for consecrated wine, poured into the little chalice on site, and as much or little as needed could be administered with the spoon. One could put holy water or whatever in the glass vial: http://www.easterndiocese.org/images/przapr.jpg

  16. Mark says:

    I meant re-wet with the UNconsecrated wine.

  17. Mark says:

    Bringing the chalice to the sick is actually how the ciborium developed, though it was the host brought in it, not the precious blood.

    The ciborium is essentially just a covered chalice. Leftover hosts to be saved for the sick used to be stored in the chalice after Mass, both because it was a convenient consecrated vessel, and because the chalice was considered proper to the deacon, who also is most properly responsible for bringing communion to the sick.

    Aquinas considers (and general symbolic considerations agree) the deacon ordinary minister of the chalice, but only extraordinary minister of the host. A deacon’s hands actually arent consecrated, and I believe in some Orthodox groups a deacon administering communion under just the host uses a sort of gold tongs or tweezers.

  18. Nick says:

    The Orthodox regularly commune infants with the Precious Blood by means of the liturgical spoon. Holy Communion is often brought to the sick in a small chalice that has a tight fitting lid (like a ciborium). The sick person is communed onl with the Precious Blood if swallowing the Pearl is not possible.

  19. Mantellone says:

    Does anyone still use the water which purifies the priest’s hands after the distribution, kept in a vial, for sick communion?

  20. To Tom’s point, and Fr. Totten’s response, above:

    Considering our Coadjutor Archbishop (Schnurr in Cincinnati) is a Celiac, we’ve learned alot about it over the last few months. He agrees with Fr. Totten that there are ‘degrees’ of intolerance to gluten. He, for example,
    can recieve the Consecrated Host, but only a small amount (half inch square), but he knows of others
    who are much more sensitive and cannot even do that and do have a reaction when consuming from the Chalice
    that has had the ‘co-mingling’ within.

    Solutions proposed above seem to me to be sensitive to all cases.

  21. jim says:

    at a catholic nursing home where i helped there was a silver straw used by one of the elderly priests there who could only receive the precious blood – he did not concelebrate but attended and received

  22. Mark says:

    “Does anyone still use the water which purifies the priest’s hands after the distribution, kept in a vial, for sick communion?”

    They should if they are distributing the host. For the precious blood, as we are discussing here, there is no direct contact with the hands, so it doesnt seem necessary.

    However, the Orthodox sick call set seems once again useful for this too, to me.

    The small chalice could be used for an ablution over the fingers with a vial of holy water, and then drunk.

    In the case of the precious blood for a sick person unable to receive the host, abluting the fingers wouldnt be necessary, but the the vial (and mini-chalice and spoon, if used) could be cleaned first with unconsecrated wine from the glass vial, and then holy water from another vial or bottle the priest could bring (or bless on site).

  23. Mantellone:

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding your question.

    Are you suggesting that the water used for purification can be given to the sick as communion?

    If that is what you are suggesting, I’ve never heard of such a practice, and I don’t see how that would count as communion.

    If you are asking if ablution bowls are still in use–they are. Both my parishes have them, and I’ve gotten extraordinary ministers to use them.

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