QUAERITUR: reconsecration of a ciboration as others are consecrated?

From a reader:

I was at Mass a little early today and noticed that a few lay helpers approached the tabernacle, and then I watched as they took a ciborium back to the narthex where the rest the of the gifts were waiting for the presentation later during Mass. Is this normal? I would believe that unconsecrated hosts used during Mass would have originated from the sacristy and not the Tabernacle. Did I just witness them try to reconsecrate already consecrated hosts?!
Thanks in advance for any info Father. If that’s the case I will be contacting the Bishop immediately.

A few things strike me about this.

First, it is all a little vague.

I don’t know what you saw.  You too, apparently, don’t know what you saw.

And yet you are pretty worked up about it, it seems.

Do you really think that some priest would be trying to consecrate consecrated Hosts?

That said, it would be very incorrect to have ciboria of consecrated Hosts on the altar in full view at the time of the consecration, or that they should be brought to the altar at the time of the offertory.   It would cause people to wonder… as you are wondering.

Back to your observations.  If this happens all the time at Mass, and this can be documentation, then something ought to be done about it.

You see… even if you don’t really know what happened, if it were to be repeated, there might be a very grave abuse going on.  In no way should the impression be given that any Host have to be reconsecrated for that Mass.  That would be a sort of Lutheran thing to do.  While they believe that their eucharist has somehow the presence of Christ together with the bread and wine, after that presence is no longer need, it is not there.  You have simple bread and wine again, which you could return to the bottle or basket or reuse if need be.  Some Lutherans are become more strongly sacramental about their eucharist, but this is generally the way it goes.

God forbid that any Catholic priest should ever develop any practice that might cause people to wonder about his sacramental theology.

If you were to see this again, I might approach the pastor/priest and ask what happened.  You might follow up his answer (if it indeed tells you something strange) with a letter just to get things straight.  Then you have a start of some documentation before you involve the bishop.

Of course if the guy is entirely off the wall and uncooperative, then the bishop must be contacted right away, as well, perhaps, as the CDW.

But I would admonish you: sometimes people think they see something and they didn’t.  Sometimes people think they understood what what they saw, but didn’t.

Check yourself before huffing and puffing.

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  1. Random Friar says:

    That sort of unfortunate thing happens once in a while at every parish I’ve been to. Someone setting up for the Mass does something like put unconsecrated hosts in a ciborium, someone else thinks they’re consecrated, puts them in the tabernacle, etc. I appreciate people being helpful and cautious, but sometimes too many hands in the sacristy confuses things. I’m a great believer in “sticky notes,” but even then people will sometimes do stuff out of habit, all well-intentioned. No priest can watch over everything that’s going on before Mass, especially when urgent things come up.

    I also have never seen someone knowingly try to “consecrate” consecrated hosts at a Catholic Mass. Presume the good in this case, and ask first. Fraternal correction generally requires you speak to the person first.

  2. CarpeNoctem says:

    Yeah, I have done this before. Short of having a good idea of what to do otherwise, this seemed like the most prudent course of action. Let me explain:

    Once in the church where I was a parochial vicar (which means I was very limited in what I could do with respect to making policy and setting discipline), we had a policy of having a full ciborum left off to the side on the server’s table if a really large crowd showed up unexpectedly at a particular Sunday Mass (something which did happen with some frequency). If 200 more people showed up at the last minute, the servers could be instructed to bring over this extra ciborium so that it could be added to the others presented by the gift bearers at the time of the offertory. Simple enough.

    Well, you guessed it, this ciborium somehow made it to the altar after communion time thanks to a hapless EOMHC. I combined the contents of several ciboria from the Mass into one, and presto, when I figured out what had happened, I learned I had a single ciborium mixed with consecrated and unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle.

    I decided to leave the ciborium in the tabernacle until the next Mass that morning, and then as descretely as possible, at the time of the offertory, I went behind the altar to the ‘back door’ of the tabernace, made my reverence out of sight, and brought that ‘mixed’ ciborium to the altar for consecration with no further ado. [This seems a better way to deal with this situation than what the original poster presented, if this indeed is the same case… of course, as Fr. Z said, we cannot know and shouldn’t make presumptions.]

    At the point of the consecration in the later Mass, I made the mental intention as I always do of consecrating “everything on the corporal which can be consecrated”, with the implicit understanding that those hosts which were already consecrated could not and would not be included in this intention or otherwise “re-consecrated”.

    I firmly believe this was the right move to make, rather than trying to gorge myself on some 300-400 hosts where I could not tell if Jesus were present… a rather indignant solution both for me and for the Lord, I’d say. A further difficulty I wanted to avoid at all costs was the remote, but real, risk of confusing the situation even more with ciboria prepared, consecrated, and purified later on in the morning at later Masses. My intetnion was to correct a grevious error in the most correct and graceful way possible. If there would be a better solution to this quandrum, I would be happy to hear it.

    As far as remediating the situation for the future, in this parish, getting rid of the EOMHC’s was cerainly not going to happen… there were two priests serving perhaps as many as 3000 people over a weekend. That particular weekend, the pastor was missing, so I was celebrating 5 Sunday Masses all by myself. As much as I know this might tweak some people here, we simply must have EOMHC’s in this situation.

    Certainly remedial training in procedures and situational awareness was implemented. It should not happen again, but of course as this is a fallen world, it probably will… somewhere… sometime. Two important things for priests and even EOMHC’s to remember is that 1) mistakes do happen, and 2) the way that we fix mistakes conscientiously, correctly, and with a degree of poise and calm is an important act of faith.

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