QUAERITUR: Communion patens or plates

From a reader:

Could you please explain the difference between "patena" and "patina" in the Latin original of paragraph 118 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (2002)?  In the English, this is translated as "paten" and "Communion plate", respectively.  The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, #93, says "The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling", and references IGMR 118.  The Latin in RS for "Communion-plate" is again patina. 

At the EF Masses I attend, the altar server always extends a "paten" below the communicant’s neck to prevent the loss of particles.  Is there a different implement for the Novus Ordo or am I misunderstanding something?  Local clergy have vehemently resisted the reintroduction of the paten at the OF, and my understanding is that the Chancery has discouraged traditional-minded priests from using the paten.

I wouldn’t worry about the spelling difference between patina (in RS) and patena in (GIRM).  Those are simple variations in spelling and they mean the same thing, the plate or shallow dish, with or without a handle, borne under the Host has it is being conveyed to the hand or mouth so as to help avoid the falling and therefore loss of particles.

I would be very surprised if "the Chancery" has discouraged something the Church’s documents ask to be retained.  You might seek a clarification what they mean by that.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Tom says:

    In My old diocese, when the bishop came around for confirmation, he picked up all of the old patens and took them with him along with the candle lighter/snuffs.

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    Local clergy have vehemently resisted the reintroduction of the paten at the OF

    I can’t imagine why. Has anyone heard a reason given for such a reaction? I heard no adverse comment when communion patens were introduced in my local parish a couple of years ago.

  3. moon1234 says:

    It is most likely coming from the same people pushing communion in the hand. If the clergy start using a paten again then the people will necessarily wonder why? If they explain that they don’t want any particle of our Lord to fall on the ground and be trounced on, then the people might wonder WHY they are being handed our Lord on their hands where even minutes particles are bound to fall off.

    This would then lead to discussions on standing or kneeling to receive communion, etc. So you see it is common sense to them that if they re-introdice the paten then it will put a chink in their modern armor.

  4. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z wrote: “I would be very surprised if ‘the Chancery’ has discouraged something the Church’s documents ask to be retained.”

    It’s not that our diocese discourages the use of the paten as much as it is universally ignored, except for the two parishes that offer the Extraordinary Form.

  5. irene says:

    I agree that a clarification is needed from the Chancery. I can’t tell you
    the amount of times something came up in our parish that when questioned, the
    answer was that is the way the Diocesan office wants it. When we asked the
    Diocese, turns out they never issued that command. It is the way for the local
    person, be it the clergy or the layperson in charge to introduce something
    they want or omit something that don’t like. Blame it on the Diocese; they
    know very few go through the trouble of asking the Diocese.

  6. Liam says:


    I agree, but I would add it can be somewhat less direct than that: it can be something that is passed down from one local “authority” to the next, who receives it uncritically. It might be that at one time, someone in the diocesan office for worship told the a local “authority” {X] is done/not done, et cet., with it merely being an opinion rather than a legislative act of the local ordinary (though I am not sure an ordinary could forbid patens when they are all but required by the ritual books).

    Frankly, I wish each diocese would publish its liturgical statutes online, to make this more transparent. It should be the responsibility of each successive ordinary to determine whether to ratify and extend the life of those statutes or otherwise.

  7. Mitchell NY says:

    I never saw one in my NO parish growing up in the 70’s and 80’s..These Bishops and Priests that obstruct the written instruction on use of the Paten are probably the same ones who echo the “Spirit of Vat II” over and over again, and pick and choose which parts of the Vat II documents to implement and which parts to ignore..That seems the biggest legacy of those 16 documents, remember what you like ignore what you don’t…What hypocrisy..

  8. You know, another story, is when I mentioned to a parishioner that as an altar boy I rang bells during the consecration, and elevations, she asked “How Old I was, that was pre Vatican II”, being 29, well at the time I was 26.

    The same mentality that thinks that bells arent rung at consecration, is the same mentality that thinks patens arent needed, or that the Traditional Extraordinary form was suspended.

    People are misguided and will think the craziest things, simply because there has been 40+ years of incorrect teaching.

    Holy Spirit, inspire those who are involved with liturgy, that they will do what is fitting and proper. Amen

  9. Fr. Paul says:

    Fr. Z, As you know,this is a settled question, especially with the publication of Redemptionis Sacramentum just 5 years ago.

    Redemptionis Sacramentum #93 states:
    “The Communion plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.” (If the paten is used, altar servers should be trained to keep the paten face up at all times, lest fragments fall to the ground. The priest should check the paten for any possible fallen fragments at the purification of the chalice and ciboria.)
    Keep up the good work, Fr. Z! Fr. Paul Weinberger, Greenville, TX

  10. Pseudomodo says:

    The liturgy is a bit muddled when it comes to patens.

    If you have a communion rail , you naturally rest your folded hands on the rail and the paten goes under your chin. If there is an arrangment where there is a procession then it is difficult for a short server to raise a paten to the chin of the local NBA star.

    Introducing one ‘improvement’ can often have a dominoe effect.

    We have no communion rail but have a procession. When we recieve communion we fold our hands in such a way that the the paten often goes under our hands and not under our chins. This is frustrating for the servers.

    I actually wrote our chancery to put a stop to the new priest reserving the patens on the credence table for three masses after which he would do the purification later in the sacristy privided that the servers didn’t spin the patens around like tennis racquets or merely dropp then to thier sides after communion.

  11. JPG says:

    I can imagine a chancery negating or discouraging the use of a paten.
    Just as one has seen the overall neglect of Redemptionis Sacramentum.
    Yesterday I received under both forms. The chalice from which I received the precious Blood was of course crystal. Mind you this was not a wide eyed liberal whack jobby modernist Mass by any stretch of the imagination. It was a middle of the road noncontroversial Mass offered by a retired priest who needed a cane. Yet for the apparent reverence shown by priest and people, this directive mandating the use of durable precious materials has been ignored. Aside from a tersely written directive from Rome “get rid of them or else” I do not see these people changing their attitudes or practice in my lifetime. With the recent spate of reports of abuse of the Sacred Host by Moslems and atheists, one would be pleased to see a general revocation of the indult permitting Communion in the hand. This could easily be cited as the reason to do so and would provide a marvelous moment for proper catechesis.

  12. Josephus muris maliensis says:

    Tom: Your bishop is guilty of theft, the patens and indeed the snuffers are canonically the property of the Parish. A Catholic Parish is a juridical body in Canon Law, to which the parish property, furnishings, vestments and also the buildings belong. The Bishop and the Diocese are quite separate, and will also own things of their own. Neither he, nor the Diocese, own anything which belongs to the Parishes.

    The duty of obedience we owe the Bishop does not extend to giving him what is rightly ours. You would have been quite at liberty, in an ecclesiastical court, and in many countries where Catholic Parishes are recognised (not England), in a civil court, to have taken action against the Bishop for the restitution of your property.

    This may not, of course, be a good idea, but a letter, first to him, and then to the Congregation for Bishops, would be.

  13. Sieber says:

    This is los Angeles…’nuff said?
    Remember in L.A. the wine to be consecrated for distribution is done so in a glass flagon. After consecration it is poured into chalices (glass or otherwise)by the EMs in their shorts & flip-flops. Who needs patens?

  14. At my parish we have Patens for both the EF and the OF Masses. For those that receive in the hand, the paten is placed under the hand, for those that receive on the tongue the paten is placed under the chin.

    Fortunately, many at my parish receive on the tongue.

  15. Philippe says:

    “Those are simple variations in spelling”.

    Ughh!! To the very best of my knowledge, this makes a world of a difference. “Patena” is a paten and “patina” a communion plate. Unless someone diproves me with convincing references.

  16. EJ says:

    As the MC of my former parish, I remember vividly how our new pastor, a priest of the Neocatechumenal Way, very clearly told me that he thought the use of patens were “completely outdated and simply stupid” before he told me that over his dead body would they be used at his new parish. Curiously this “ecclesial movement” was among the first to passionately push for Communion in the hand (and quite illicitly and without any permission when they did) as far back as the late 60s – and that is precisely why those against communion patens are dead against them… vehemently against them. They know that their use would foster MORE consideration about the WHY we would want to protect the Blessed Sacrament in such a way…making people wonder about the nature of the Eucharist, and possibly making them reconsider Communion in the hand vs. on the tongue… that is what they’re really afraid about. In fact, this pastor actually admitted that, saying that the patens were now useless and might discourage communion in the hand.. and over their dead bodies if anything discourages communion in the hand… it began in the 60s through defiance and it must survive for them through more defiance.

  17. Jordanes says:

    Irene said: I can’t tell you the amount of times something came up in our parish that when questioned, the answer was that is the way the Diocesan office wants it. When we asked the Diocese, turns out they never issued that command.

    I had an experience like that a few years ago, not regarding patens, but regarding whether to admit a Freemason as a member of the Knights of Columbus Council. First they argued that the Church now says its okay for Catholics to be Freemasons. When we showed them Cardinal Ratzinger’s clarification that it is still forbidden to join the Masons, someone claimed that the bishop had given a dispensation allowing Catholics in our diocese to be Masons. So we wrote to the bishop, who wrote back, in so many words, “I have no idea what they’re talking about. I haven’t given any such dispensation nor do I have the authority to give such a dispensation. What Cardinal Ratzinger said is right.” If anybody ever tries the “But the bishop says it’s okay” line, don’t stand for it: go to the source and find out what the bishop really says, and get it in writing. Our local K of C council now has the bishop’s letter permanently on file in case this question ever arises again.

  18. Jordanes says:

    Philippe said: “Patena” is a paten and “patina” a communion plate.

    The Latin word means “plate,” doesn’t it? A “paten” is a sort of communion plate, so the distinction between “patena” and “patina” would appear to be illusory. They would at most be different kinds of communion “plates,” with different liturgical uses, if there really is a distinction in Latin between “patena” and “patina.”

  19. Sieber: Not in all the parishes in Los Angeles, mine’s clean (I know, I’m in LA), though the parish I was at yesterday did use the glass kool-aid pitcher and chalices…irks me like crazy

  20. Philippe says:

    Jordanes says “The Latin word means “plate,” doesn’t it?”
    Which Latin word, Jordanes? Patena or patina?… Thanks for your reply but I don’t think it solves the problem.

  21. Jordanes says:

    Philippe said: Which Latin word, Jordanes? Patena or patina?


  22. Maureen says:

    Lewis and Short (via Perseus) says:

    “p?t?na . ae, v. 1. patina.”

    “patina (patena) ae, f [2 PAT-] , a broad, shallow dish, pan, stewpan: animus est in patinis, I am thinking of the dishes, T.: tyrotarichi: muraena In patin? porrecta, H.: deerat pisci patinae mensura, i. e. a dish large enough, Iu.”

    So it’s pretty much a racoon/raccoon situation.

  23. Pseudomodo says:


    I think we’ve gone through something like this before.

    Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. ???? ??? ???? ???? ??? ?? ??????? ? ??????? ??? ? ?? ???? ?? ? ??? ?????? ?? ?? ??????? ??? ??? ????? ??? ?? ????? ???????

    The Church also had to defend the divine nature of Jesus in the homoosious / homoisious controversy! Again a word separated by one iota! Either like God or the same as God.

    Our entire Catholic identity is hanging in the balance here!

  24. Maureen says:

    Those squiggles say “patena”, except with dictionary pronunciation marks.

  25. James says:

    Have not seen one in Church in over 20 years out here in L.A., I think they use them as frisbee’s…

  26. Matthew W. I. Dunn says:

    Just out of curiosity (because I didn’t see this part):

    Did they use Communion plates during the distribution of Holy Communion at the consecration of the Congregation for Divine Worship’s Fr. J. Augustine DiNoia to the episcopate?

  27. Josephus muris maliensis says:

    Jordanes et al: That is the lovely thing about tradition, a nuance may arise (as frequently in English) with two forms of the same word derived through differing paths or periods. Thus Patena/Patina. A bit like the liturgical use of ‘Dmne’ for the priest, but ‘Domine’ for God, they are the same word, but a useful nuance.

    I remember once (and this will amuse Philippe) an Englishman in the South of France telling me he had put the birettas in the dishwasher. French: ‘Barette’ = biretta. ‘Burette’ = cruet. I think, Jordanes, a single letter can have quite an effect.

  28. Mary Conces says:

    I should think that one difficulty of re-instituting the use of the paten–at least for daily Mass–would be that priests (at least in my observation) often have no server to hold it.
    Personally, I am grateful when there is a paten. I’ve been trying to receive regularly on the tongue, and I do whenever the priest is–fairly tall or standing on a step, seems comfortable with the practice (getting to be more common), doesn’t have shaky hands, etc.

  29. From a reader:

    In my local parish I have experienced (seen) the Host fall to the floor many times when people are recieving.  No communion plates are used.  I went to the pastor and told him what I had seen.  I asked him if there is a reason why he does not use the communion paten.  He said the church did not have any.  I then offered to buy two patens for the church and he said, no, it wasn’t needed.  After the exchange I wrote to my Bishop and did not recieve a reply.  I know that there are many priests that visit your site and would deeply like to know WHY they will not use a paten.  Am I asking wrong?  Redemptionis Sacramentum #93 makes it clear that they SHOULD be used.  I’ve been told by a priest that should does not mean you have to.  I looked up “should” in the dictionary and found this: SHOULD: must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency.  I guess what I am asking is:  What reason (or fear) do priests have for not using the paten? We have a different pastor now and would like to approach him on this.  Any ideas on how I can go about asking in charity.


  30. alex says:

    1) Unless a server gets what he is supposed to do with a paten and is trained to do it properly it is pointless to have a paten. I was serving Mass a couple of Sundays agao and saw the Sacred Host fall to the floor, Why? the server didn’t know what he was to do with the paten.
    2) If I were to ask the new pastor to use patens I would simply tell him the story of what happened and offer again to buy some.

  31. James, Holy Trinity in Los Angeles (Atwaood Village) and St. Therese in Alhambra use them still :), not all is lost.

  32. Joanne says:

    What is supposed to happen when the Host falls to the floor? It happened to me recently. I was trying to receive the Eucharist on the tongue. I’ve gotten the impression from this priest before that he prefers to give Communion in the hand (for whatever reason he has – not ascribing bad motivations to him, he may just find it awkward). At any rate, the Host fell to the floor as he was about to put it onto my tongue. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to pick it up, because I didn’t want to touch it. I thought the priest should pick it up – and he tried to, but being a bit older, he was very slow in bending over. Then from behind me, a woman said, “I’ll get it.” She picked it up off the ground and handed it to the priest. He didn’t put it back into the dish, he held onto it while he was distributing Communion.

    Was this okay? If not, what should have happened?

  33. Joanne: What should of happened was that the Host was picked up (and consumed) immediately, then a cloth of some type, purificator or otherwise should have been placed over the spot until after Mass was over, then the remaining fragments could be picked up after Mass.

  34. Sal says:

    I use the communion paten every time I serve Mass with our parish priest. When some of the servers questioned our new parish priest as to whether or not he wanted to continue to use them, he encouraged us. He is more or less conservative liturgically, but mine is a parish that still only offers masses in the OF. Contrary to what many progressives think, the communion paten is not dead in the Novus Ordo.

  35. Jordanes says:

    Josephus said: I think, Jordanes, a single letter can have quite an effect.

    Yes, it can, but apparently it doesn’t in this case.

  36. Girgadis says:

    I belong to an NO parish (though soon we will have one Sunday Mass in the EF) and we have always used patens. Thankfully, our pastor recently issued a cease and desist to EM’s so that only he or another priest is permitted to take the paten from the altar server and sweep any particles of the Blessed Sacrament into the ciborium. I am always very aware of where the server places the paten because I want to make sure it’s in a position where the Host can be caught should there be a mishap. On occasion I take a glance downward. I am amazed at the amount of particles that do land on the paten and I can’t believe anyone would actually believe a paten is unnecessary. I’ve also (very nicely) mentioned to some of the servers that attend school with my kids that they should never place the paten against themselves at any time because it could contain remnants of the Eucharist. To me it is extremely sloppy, lazy and irreverent practice that would lead anyone to believe a paten is useless and unnecessary.

  37. Greg Smisek says:

    The terms patena and patina are distinct in liturgical law, and this use is consistent for both the older and newer forms of Mass.

    I consulted my copy of Sleumer’s Kirchenlateinisches Wörterbuch (1926), covering terms from the Missal, Breviary, Ritual, Gradual, Pontifical, Ceremonial, Martyrology, Vulgate, and Code of Canon Law. It gives a single definition for each word, but while it gives a broad definition for patina, “Pfanne, Schüssel” (pan, bowl/dish), it gives a very specific definition for patena, “die Patene, ein kleiner Teller, der für die Hostie bei der hl. Messe gebraucht wird” (the paten, a small plate, which is used for the host at holy Mass).

    The Ritus servandus and the rubrics of the Order of the Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal use only patena for the paten used by the priest at the altar. The 1969/2002 Missal uses the term likewise.

    With the General Rubrics of the Roman Missal (1960), n. 528, liturgical law required, for the first time, that a patina pro Communione fidelium (plate/paten for the Communion of the faithful) be prepared at the credence table. Prior to that, the communion cloth had been required, although the communion plate had been tolerated as a replacement for the communion cloth and had become the de facto standard by then. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal of the 2002 Missal repeated this same requirement, using the exact same phrase, patina pro Communione fidelium.

    Redemptionis sacramentum (2004), nn. 93 and 119 follows the same distinction in terms.

    Presumably the distinction in terms is meant to highlight the distinction between the instruments themselves. They are not interchangeable. While the deacon in a solemn Mass usus antiquior does hold the celebrant’s paten under the chin of the communicants, a server would never have held the consecrated paten when assisting at Holy Communion (see Catholic Encyclopedia, “Altar Rail“, and one priest’s horror upon discovering that his server had grabbed the altar paten instead of a communion plate). Even in the usus recentior, where the celebrant’s paten is merely blessed, this would be unseemly.

Comments are closed.