QUAERITUR: priest consecrates more Hosts during Communion

From a reader:

At a Mass in our Diocese this past Sunday, the priest was running very low on consecrated hosts.  Even after breaking some of the hosts in order to distribute more, it was clear that there would not be near enough to accommodate everyone.  When the hosts ran out, the priest returned to the altar and said the words of consecration over additional unconsecrated hosts.  He then used these to distribute to those who did not receive from the first set.  Are these hosts validly consecrated?  What should a priest do in a situation where it becomes clear that a substantial portion of the congregation will not be able to receive?

communion hostsThe consecration was valid.  When a priest says the words of consecration over valid matter and with the proper intention, the Eucharist is confected.

However, while breaking Hosts during Communion is one thing, consecrating more during Communion is another.

It is permissible to break Hosts in great need.  But the Eucharist should not be consecrated apart from its proper moment, in the Canon or Eucharistic Prayer of Holy Mass. 

An exception is when, for example, it is discovered that a chalice full of water with a couple drops of wine was "consecrated" by mistake. Also, if the priest is pretty sure that he didn’t say the form of consecration properly, he could repeat it later, even conditionally.  The point is that the priest must consume both kinds, therefore he must have both kinds.  It is not necessary for Mass to be valid that anyone else consume the Eucharist.  Even if people don’t receive, they have been to Mass. 

Another situation where the priest would need to consecrate outside of the normal moment would be if he finds that the Host has disappeared somehow.  Perhaps wind took it.  Imagine Mass in a war zone on the hood of a jeep.

In the old tract on "defects" of Mass at the beginning of the pre-Conciliar, Extraordinary Form of the Roman Missal, provision is made for a "missing" Host.  Not only does De Defectibus speak about wind, but perhaps some animal got the Host.  I can certainly imagine a bird swooping down, or a big rat, etc.  There is a funny story about that last one, as a matter of fact, but I will save it.  Another situation for the disappearance of the Host during Mass, thus requiring the priest to consecrate again, would be – as described in De Defectibus – and I love this – is that it disappears because of a miracle

Yes, miracles happen. 

I don’t recommend that you kneel in the pews asking God to "disappear" the Host.  The priest, on the other hand….

But to consecrate not so as to assure the validity of Mass, but that more people can have Communion… no.  Not right.

The best thing to do, IMO, is simply to explain the situation and urge people to make a spiritual Communion, perhaps offering to say Mass again (if it is permitted to binate etc. for pastoral reasons, etc.) immediately after.

I have had to do this, as a matter of fact, at a parish where I was visiting.  I was told that there should be a full ciborium in the tabernacle: there wasn’t.  I explained.  No one threw a nutty.  It was a "teachable moment".  I took a couple minutes after Mass to run through the points and everyone was fine.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pberginjr says:

    Disappearing hosts… I’ve never thought of that happening.

  2. lofstrr says:

    just curious, at what point did you let the congregation know that you were going to run out and how did you communicate that? Before distributing? during?

    On an almost unrelated note. At what point at the end of a mass, EF or OF, would the St Michael prayer be said? Unfortunately I have never seen this done, only heard about it. I get the impression that it would come after the recessional and be an almost spontaneous response of the congregation but it seems like that would only work if the church actually went silent after the recessional. Our organist continues on playing other music as people leave as if the closing credits should be rolling on the overhead. How is it supposed to work at the end of a mass?

  3. canon1753 says:

    This is the situation where the code states (cover your ears) NEFAS EST!!!!!! [Feel free to cite that nefarious canon.] It is nefarious to do that. It may even be a delict (I do not have SST in front of me). I think for the sake of his soul, suggest to the priest he never do it again.

    Am I over reacting? No.

    [Can. 927 “It is absolutely wrong, even in urgent and extreme necessity, to consecrate one element without the other, or even to consecrate both outside the eucharistic celebration.” The situation is not outside of Mass. I don’t think your citation of this canon applies. As we can see from the old De defectibus, it was not “nefas” to consecrate one element by itself…. but within the context of Mass.]

  4. o.h. says:

    What constitutes “great need”? My teenage daughter recently attended Mass alone on our local college campus, and she related that the hosts were very large, and so when she approached, it was clear that the Host was too large to be placed on her tongue. The priest, she said, told her, “Look, I’m just going to put this in your hand, okay?” She shook her head and kept her hands together, at which point the priest broke the Host and placed a part of it on her tongue. (She tells me the Hosts since then at the student Mass have been small.)

    She asked me if she should have received in the hand so as to prevent the priest from needing to break the Host. It does seem questionable whether the choice to receive on the tongue, where communion in the hand is licit, constitutes “great need.” What should she have done? [That isn’t our question here. But receiving on the tongue is never wrong.]

  5. chonak says:

    There’s no harm in breaking the Host. It’s done all the time for the sick.

  6. I unfortunately also attended a Mass recently where I saw this happen. So the consecration is valid, not licit? Is that what you mean by “Not right”? Sinful, illicit, or both? Should I approach the priest? Or nothing at all? Thanks for addressing this issue, Father. [I would say, it is best to bring documentation to his attention and then leave it. If he does it often, he is not planning well, for one thing. His bishop should be informed. In the meantime, worry about your own sins. ]

  7. Ernesto Gonzalez says:

    Is it permitted to break the host while consuming it (by chewing or with the tongue? [This is not our question.]

  8. david s says:

    This reminds me of a situation some years ago. For a Mass in a hotel for a conference, somehow the ciborium of unconsecrated hosts was left on the credance table during the consecration. There was a host with the chalice. So the bishop (the celebrant was a bishop) said Mass, then realized there were no consecrated hosts to distribute. Not being a church, there was no tabernacle. So the bishop finished Mass, explained to the congregation what had happened. He then proceeded to offer a second Mass to consecrate the hosts–it took about 15-20 minutes–then gave Holy Communion to the congregation.

  9. John F. Kennedy says:

    One of the problems of breaking of the Host in the Communion line is crumbs. Ever since Communion in the hand and reception while standing has been allowed, I have not seen any patens. Since there are no patens, there is great danger of small particles of the Body of Christ falling to the ground in the breaking process.

    BTW, since when was the use of patens no longer required during the distribution of the Hosts? Should there be an army of servers with patens standing next to the army of EMHCs? (Maybe that requirement would reduce their numbers.)

  10. Scott W. says:

    Is it permitted to break the host while consuming it (by chewing or with the tongue?

    In my non-expert opinion, we eat the host in the normal sense of eating. That is, chewing and swallowing. I’ve heard tell of nuns who would punish kids for chewing the host and that they were supposed to only let it dissolve on the tongue, but my guess is that this was done because kids in general not very discreet in their eating habits and a kid smacking away on the host like he had 3 pieces of gum in his mouth was undecorous at Mass. [This is NOT our question.]

  11. ghlad says:

    Oh no, I can’t imagine a rat consuming the Body to be thought of as humorous. :( I feel dirty to even say that sentence.

  12. ghlad: Oh relax. No rats around here… well mostly not.

  13. lofstrr: at what point did you let the congregation know that you were going to run out and how did you communicate that? Before distributing? during?

    It makes sense to tell people before Communion, right? Even though there isn’t a rubric for that! But we have to use common sense.

  14. There seems to be a problem with the response to the original question.

    I’m not sure that such an action of the priest would be valid. [No. It would be valid.] The problem is that the confection of the Most Holy Eucharist, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, requires its proper context, i.e., the canon of the Mass (or Eucharistic Prayer). Without the context a priest pronouncing the proper form over the proper matter does not effect transubstantiation. [No. It would be valid.] Now, this being said, according to Aquinas it is the Church who determines the proper liturgical rites that constitute the proper context. So, the provisions given in De defectibus can only be interpreted narrowly and in the most extraordinary of cases. A provision to consecrate new Hosts during the liturgy after the canon because of a quantitative lack of the Sacred Species is not one such provision (as far as I am aware) and thus the action of the priest would be both invalid (on account of lacking proper context) and nefarious (as leading people toward idolatry albeit unintentional). The action described by david s recounting the hotel conference and the Bishop would be the appropriate course of action.

    However, let’s also recall the notion that the Church Supplies the necessary grace when there is a defect that is out of the control of the individual faithful. So, in this particular case I’m sure that people would be concerned about those who received these (most likely) invalidly “consecrated hosts.” Those faithful who would have partaken of the bread that they thought because of the actions of the priest was our Lord would not be guilty of a violation against the First Commandment. In fact they would still receive the grace that the Sacrament would normally impart, but they would not have received the Sacrament as such. The sin (if there be one) would be that of the priest’s [and it would be the sin of sacrilege] because he should have known better and also any of the faithful who had sufficient knowledge to recognize the error of the action but still received the putative host [which would be the sin of idolatry].

    [No. It would be valid.]

  15. msmsem says:

    So… valid but illicit? If we’re using valid matter and proper intent as the requirements, then could a priest validly (though illicitly) confect the Eucharist (“make Jesus”) outside the Mass (which, of course, should not happen)? Just making sure I’m understanding this correctly…

  16. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Terrible, terrible.

    One of the considerations about how much to consecrate is how much is in the tabernacle; I emphasize, how much, not how few. I.e., if I am not careful, we will end up with several ciboria filled in the tabernacle. It’s important not to overdo it.

    Alas, several times I tried to be smart about it, and get it just right, and didn’t consecrate enough. So, yes, that means breaking hosts; one time, I couldn’t give holy communion to about four of our students (at a school Mass).

    My solution was to apologize, and I told the children I would bring them holy communion in a few minutes–because I was able to go to the parish 1/2 mile away and bring back a pyx with hosts.

    But I would never do what this priest did. As Father Z said, if doing so was necessary for a valid Mass–i.e., otherwise no host was actually consecrated–then okay.

  17. Re: rat —

    Well, it would be distressing if it could have been prevented, especially if you were the one who could have prevented it. It’s not fitting for us to allow any animal to do such a thing.

    But given that the Lord is the Master of all nature, including rodents, it would not be doing anything He didn’t permit. You might indeed wonder if the Lord were not having mercy on the rat, [?!?] allowing her to feed her children, or curing her of plague and thus saving His human flock. Who knows what use God might make of a temporarily holy rat?!

    Of course, it would probably be nothing like that. [!] But even so, it would be something to commit to Providence, not to agonize about. The dumb beasts don’t mean any harm — not the way a human does.

    And _in retrospect_, or for those not there, it _would_ probably be funny.

  18. Okay… more about the rat thing:

    At a very clerical supper one night we mused about the possibility of a mouse dashing across the altar after the consecration and making off with a Host.

    One solution offered was to bless a cat, put a white stole on it, send it after the rat, and when it came back, burn both the cat and put the ashes, yes, down the sacrarium.

    NB: When something goes wrong everything seems to get burned and put down the sacrarium. the cat is not being singled out for … special treatment.

    That was actually Fr. JS’s solution: no cat lover, he.

    Hmmmm…. I bet Vincenzo could do that justice. But I digress…

    Folks, while the whole cat and stole thing is clearly a joke to illustrate a point about the importance of protecting sacred things, these occurrences such as mice getting Hosts, or wind blowing things away, actually happen if you wait long enough. Over the centuries solutions were found.

    I had this confirmed for me in my church in Italy, badly in need of repairs, when a particularly large and nasty looking spider decided to descend into my chalice.

  19. Mrs. O says:

    I have been at a mass where the priest completely ran out AFTER the last person received but never the above situation.

    The mouse/cat scenario was funny.

    When I was a EMHC, one job was to check the ciborium before mass to see if there were any, how many, etc.
    One day there was a host that was smashed/eaten partially or something in the tabernacle. Someone suspected a mouse! But I am not sure someone was careless and it got caught in the lid of the ciborium. It was not a very good tabernacle.

  20. uptoncp says:

    Coming from an Anglican perspective, where a greater emphasis is placed on reception of the Holy Communion by the faithful, this exact practice is not only permitted but enjoined – apparently it was introduced into the Prayer Book in 1662 following cases where Puritan ministers had supplied the shortfall without even a gesture towards supplementary consecration. I imagine that is where this priest has picked it up from, either directly or indirectly.

  21. pedantic_prof says:

    Fr. Z: I believe that the feline-wearing stole followed by burning and disposal down the sacrarium is an ecclesiastical urban legend. The parish priest of my childhood told me the same scenario had been set out to him as a novice at Ampleforth Abbey in the 1940s! Cats are particularly apt; Cardinal Richelieu kept 24 of them and made particular provision for the remaining ones in his will.

  22. djbeyers75 says:

    Thank you for your commentary on this Fr. Z.

    One additional thought. It seems to me that many people today believe that they have a “right” to receive the Eucharist. As soon as time for communion nears, people immediately approach the altar in droves and hardly a person even seems to pause and consider as whether or not one is ready to receive the Eucharist. My fear is that we have become entitled to the Eucharist. And such actions by a priest (to consecrate an extra amount of bread so that everyone can receive communion) only seem to foster this notion.

    This is not to say that I think daily reception of Eucharist is wrong, but I almost think one ought to approach it with the greatest amount of reverence and care. And were it the case that one could not receive at Mass the Sacrament because of a situation such as this, that it would be best for one to appreciate and meditate upon the great desire to receive as a sign of affection and love for God. I am always moved by the testimony of those seeking full communion with the Church and their sheer hunger and yearning to receive God in the Eucharist. If only we too shared that same desire each and every time we receive.

  23. canon1753 says:

    After checking SST, there does not seem to be a latae sententiae delict, only if done for an evil purpose. The fact is canon 927 says consecration of the sacred species should never be done one at a time.

    I would be of the opinion that by consecrating extra hosts at communion is something that should not be done EVER. I remember my canon law prof at seminary being quite clear to not do it.

    Your pastoral approach when you were in the situation of not enough hosts was great and proper.

  24. canon1753 says:

    FWIW: Canon 927 is the only place where CIC1983 uses “Nefas est,” it is not to be done.

  25. Charivari Rob says:

    John F. Kennedy – “Since there are no patens, there is great danger of small particles of the Body of Christ falling to the ground in the breaking process.”

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a priest or EMHC break hosts over a paten in such a situation. They break it over whatever ciborium or pyx they’re holding.

  26. Animadversor says:

    Most probably it is better that an innocent rat should consume the Host than that one of us Christians should eat it to our condemnation.

    People sometimes seem to think that God has provided the Sacraments with a lot of built-in pitfalls and traps to trip us up, as though He is eager to catch us screwing something up. Surely not. We ought always, of course, from the great affection, reverence and gratitude we owe God, to try to celebrate the Sacraments in a worthy manner, adhering to the liturgical norms established by the Church, but surely we ought not to be scrupulous here? A serene and tranquil adherence to the norms is what is called for, not a fearful one. And I think, on a related note, that we should remember that the Sacraments are the instruments of God’s mercy, not constraints upon it. Yes, we ought always to approach and to make use of those means he has most wisely established as channels of his grace, but should for some reason they be not available to us, does anyone imagine that the Divine Mercy is somehow stymied?

  27. dcs says:

    If memory serves, Fr. Jone says that if the priest fears he will run out of hosts that each can be broken into two or three pieces.

    It seems that it would be appropriate to do this over a vessel which will subsequently be purified (i.e., either the ciborium or the chalice).

  28. Sigh. I try to provide some soothing thoughts, and I get ! and ?! No appreciation… there goes my career in writing Deep Spiritual Devotional Booklets, I guess…. ;)

  29. David says:

    I was taught that with the two consecrations being over, that part of the Mass is complete. To consecrate again, whether one or two elements, would be — on a most essential level — to start another Mass, even though the ‘first’ Mass is not yet technically complete. If that is true, then to consecrate only one element — even though technically in the same Mass — would in fact be ‘nefas’ (I think one of the three times the word appears in CIC).

    It seems to me that any recommendation to consecrate another altar bread in replacement of a rat-retrieved Host (if that were the only altar bread to have then been consecrated) is due to the fact that it is better in that case for the priest himself to finish the Sacrifice by being able to receive both of the elements. But this is, I think, another separate case with no direct analogy to the story at hand, that of consecrating for those in the congregation.

  30. Fr. Z, I reviewed both the Summa and other ecclesiastical and theological sources and as a result I want to retract my initial doubt of your answer. It seems that those words which surround the essential form of the Sacrament (the rite itself) do not effect validity in any way, according to Thomas, but are rather for the disposition of all the faithful and the fittingness of the solemnity due to the Eucharistic sacrifice. However, unless I’m further mistaken, the act cited in the initial question should be considered a grave sin on the part of the priest in light of ST, III, a 78, a 1, ad 4 which reads, “Graviter tamen peccaret sacerdos sic conficiens hoc sacramentum, utpote ritum Ecclesiae non servans. Nec est simile de Baptismo, quod est sacramentum necessitatis, defectum autem huius sacramenti potest supplere spiritualis manducatio, ut Augustinus dicit.”

  31. Br. Gabriel: It would still be valid. St. Thomas isn’t the final answer.

  32. chonak says:

    I wonder if this might be a case of non-Catholic influence, as there apparently is a provision in the Book of Common Prayer which advises the minister to consecrate additional hosts if needed.

  33. Joshua08 says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, did you actually read the second post of Br. Gabriel?

    “I reviewed both the Summa and other ecclesiastical and theological sources and as a result I want to retract my initial doubt of your answer. It seems that those words which surround the essential form of the Sacrament (the rite itself) do not effect validity in any way, according to Thomas”

    How on earth is “It would still be valid” and a dismissive remark about the authority of St. Thomas a proper reply to him admitting that it was valid?

    I am sure that this act would be (objectively) a grave sin. The De defectibus is clear (III, 6) that even in cases where the Host is doubtful, if this is discovered after the priest has reseived the Precious Blood, then both a new Host and a new Chalice is necessary

    “If he makes this discovery after receiving the Blood, he must again take fresh bread, and wine with water. After offering them, the priest should consecrate, beginning at the words: Qui pridie, etc. He should then immediately consume both, and go on with the Mass, so that the Sacrament may not remain incomplete, and that due order may he kept.”

    So according to the De defectibus this was an “incomplete sacrament” the “nefas” that Canon law speaks of.

  34. John F. Kennedy says:

    Charivari Rob;

    I have seen Hosts broken while in line, just before I have received. Yes, in some cases they were using a ciboria or host bowl, but sometimes a simple paten (without a handle). It looks awkward since they are trying to break the host with one hand.

    Regarding use of patens or Communion plates, I found the following from Redemptionis Sacramentum;
    [93.] 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.

    So it appears that “Someone” else also has my concern. I don’t know whether or not the intention is to have a server holding a paten, with a handle, during the distribution of Communion. This could be the case since normally the Hosts would be in a ciborium, ciboria or host bowl.

    While, very “off topic,” has anyone seen patens used in this manner since Redemptionis Sacramentum?

  35. glennbcnu says:


    Could a priest use the hosts reserved in the tabernacle during communion if he were to run out of the ones that he had consecrated at the mass?

  36. @ Joshua08: Thank you for the defense. I assume that with so many posts today and all the comments on top of them that Fr. Zuhlsdorf just misread my post. It is an easy thing to do. Perhaps the miscommunication is with the language I chose to use that I derived from the English Dominican Fathers’ translation of the Summa, i.e., “those words that surround the essential form … do not effect validity.” I can see that if the word “surround” is not taken in the sense that I had intended then a confusion could occur. In common speech the phrase could indicate a reference to the essential form of the Sacrament. However, I was taking it in a more technical way with the meaning of those words that proximately surround the words of institution.

    I chose that language instead of just speaking about the canon of the Mass because it is necessary to account for the other Rites of the Church when speaking about the theology of the Sacraments. However, this does bring about the further problem that not all the Rites use the same words of institution and in fact some Rites do not have any words of institution at all. But, regardless of this point the Church still considers them valid, e.g. the Assyrians. This does cause serious problems with the simplistic view that some people have that the Sacraments consist in the Matter, Form, Minister and Intention scheme in some “hard and fast” way. Rather, the Schoolmen (with Aquinas) and Trent adopt the hylomorphic language because it works better than any other scheme in explaining the truth of the Sacraments. However, the other scheme that Aquinas uses that seems to work better is his threefold distinction between the “sacramentum tantum,” the “res et sacramentum,” and the “res tantum.” These descriptions allow for a discussion about the sacraments that is much more fruitful because it respects the wide variety of the divergent Traditions in the Church, such as the deprecatory words used in the absolution formula for the Sacrament of Penance in the Eastern Churches or the fact that it is unclear whether it is the deacon/priest or the couple who is the minister of the Sacrament of Matrimony or if a legitimate variance on account of each divergent valid apostolic tradition must be admitted.

    Though he is correct about the authority of St. Thomas Aquinas, though Thomas does have the unique privilege above all other Doctors as being nearly completely and officially appropriated by the Church (both in papal and conciliar documents along with being the only other person other than Jesus and Mary who is referenced by name in the Code of Canon Law). This is even reflected in the provisions given in the document De defectibus (which was under discussion). Each of the provisions for defects in the document are nearly word for word taken from the pertinent question in the Summa Theologicae (ST III q. 83 a. 6 ad. 1-7).

  37. duanehowey says:

    Folks. Another answer for the Priest who runs out of Hosts:

    Step back to the Altar and get the Chalice, sent the EME to the Sacristy for altar breads and offer the modified intinction as “The Blood of Christ” to the last 3 Souls still waiting in line.

    (yes, it happened. March 13, 2010).

    Comments? I have to admit I am unsure on this one.

    Blessings to all.
    Grandpa Duane.

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