QUAERITUR: glass tabernacle and reserving Precious Blood

From a reader comes this distressing bit of information from Australia:

Attached is an excerpt from a local parish newsletter.   Fr Richard Leonard is a prominent Australian Jesuit and Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.   The glass-fronted tabernacle he refers to would seem to be clearly in breach of Canon 938.3.   It also appears that the Precious Blood is being reserved in a chalice.  Is this a trend?

If it is a trend, it is forbidden.   The Precious Blood may not be reserved except in very rare cases when a tiny amount from Mass may be kept for Communion of sick people who absolutely cannot take even the smallest amount of solids or gluten, etc.

Otherwise, if a tabernacle had a door made from something that was a strong as the glass that goes into military vehicles in Afghanistan, then I suppose it would be okay.  In any event, it should be veiled.  The veil, not the sanctuary lamp, is the best sign of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

ADDITION: The 1983 Code of Canon Law

Can.  938 §1. The Most Holy Eucharist is to be reserved habitually in only one tabernacle of a church or oratory.

§2. The tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved is to be situated in some part of the church or oratory which is distinguished, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer.

§3. The tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved habitually is to be immovable, made of solid and opaque material, and locked in such a way that the danger of profanation is avoided as much as possible.

However, in the blurb, below, I think the reference to the "chalice" is really just an overly loose term for what is technically a ciborium or pyx in which Hosts are preserved.

Priests know that the Precious Blood cannot be reserved.

But if the Precious Blood is really being reserved in that tabernacle, I think I would involve the local bishop and/or the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Glass tabernacles (they ARE available in some religious good catalogs) are forbidden, as far as I know.
    Reserving the Precious Blood is under very circumspect regulations (for the sick who cannot receive solid food, viz., the Sacred Host…as Fr. Z. said; and then must be consumed ASAP).

  2. patrick_f says:

    I hate to generalize, but notice the Initials after this Priest’s name

  3. JosephMary says:

    Yes, my hometown parish has a glass tabernacle. One can see the ciborium in there. The whole church would be decorated for a feast or something and the tabernacle, off to the side, would not be. When no one was about, little angels would bring some of the decorations to the tabernacle.

  4. The Egyptian says:

    1st paragraph ” reconciliation room with floor to ceiling glass, bah blah blah” refer to a previous post about the SCREEN, and now glass tabernacles, aaaagggghhhhh.

    quote your post on the sense of the sacred

    “Not only is the quality of sacredness a mark of all religions, but it is so essential to religion that the very moment sacredness disappears religion vanishes with it.”

    we are lost in our own ideological wasteland.

  5. Fr. Z, not to quibble, but I think he actually does mean a chalice. Read the critiques he has recieved: ‘the chalice looks ready to drink,’ and ‘it looks like real food.’

    God Help us!

  6. New Sister says:

    That clip “Reflection…” makes it pretty clear to me that Fr Leonad, S.J., is reserving the Precious Blood in the Tabernacle.

  7. I think there is something very important here, RE: The Egyptian’s remarks about the “quality of sacredness”…the more “familiar” one becomes with the sacred, the greater temptation there is to “lose faith”…”familiarity breeds contempt”, as the saying goes.
    That is why anyone who handles the Sacred Species on a regular basis (priest, deacon or extraordinary minster of Holy Communion) should spend lots of time in Eucharistic adoration; be faithful to the proper rubrics and gestures of reverence; otherwise, the “boundaries” of the sacred are trampled by expediency and then become a source of temptation to “unbelief”.

  8. A. J. D. S. says:

    My understanding was that tabernacles are to made of an opaque material (i.e., not transparent). (Tabernaculum, in quo habitualiter sanctissima Eucharistia asservatur, sit inamovibile, materia solida non transparenti confectum, et ita clausum ut quam maxime periculum profanationis vitetur [Can. 938§3].)

  9. JonM says:

    Father, I saw a terrible thing in a Northern diocese: After all communicants had received, the EMsHC deposited the chalices on the side of the sanctuary in some container.

    It was done with no care, no act of purification at all. In fact, the chalices were put aside like a drained beer glass is taken by the bartender, put aside for the dishwasher later.

    In cruel ironry, this was how the Eucharist was celebrated for the first Communions of at least 80 kids.

    I was wondering if anyone knows it to be a trendy thing to purify the chalices after the Mass. Or for that matter if the Precious Blood is just seen as a symbol of ‘coming together as a community.’

  10. JonM: You are absolutely correct to be horrified by this practice; the Precious Blood IS NOT to be poured into another container, at any point. It is is to be consumed at the end of Holy Communion. The vessels may be purified after Mass, but they must be reverently dealt with (covered with a cloth?) and put at the credence table. Purifying the chalices, after Mass, may be done; but it must be done with the most reverence. The consuming of the Precious Blood,from what I understand, should be done immediately after the Communion of the Faithful, in other words, before the Prayer after Communion, Final Blessing and Dismissal.

  11. Mike says:

    Interesting. In our parish, I really have to force myself not to notice all the skipped genuflections by EMHC. Perhaps I should say an Ave for each one missed!

    At my school, there is a devout care for all these details of love and piety. We have a beautiful, silver-plated Tabernacle in a larger, two-doored I don’t know what you would call it…with images of St. Raphael and St. Michael on each huge glass door, holding swords. The glass on the doors is at least two inches think. The doors swing open with a lot of weight and force.

    When receiving Communion, it’s great to see images of these two holy Archangels, watching over us.

  12. albizzi says:

    Hosts may be reserved for weeks, months, even years in the tabernacle so far as any
    moisture is kept away.
    The precious Blood may be corrupt by the oxidization of the alcohol it contains and later became a vinegar. This may happen in a few days if the weather is hot enough.

  13. Clinton says:

    Where do these liturgical fads come from?

    One thing that disturbs me about Fr. Leonard’s ‘Reflection’ is his smug assurance that until he came along the Church had been doing
    things all wrong. Such a person doesn’t ask himself why the Church in her wisdom and experience has the norms and customs that she
    does. He says, in effect, “Silly Church, what were you thinking? Thank heaven I’m finally here. I’m going to fix that for you”. Such hubris…

    Fr. Leonard’s “Reflection” seems to refer not only to the Precious Blood being reserved, but also to the reservation of Hosts in such a way
    that They are somehow kept clearly on display. In other words, he seems to have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, sans any
    of the Church’s norms to insure the dignity of the Eucharist is respected. Perhaps Fr. Leonard’s ‘display’ looks ‘like real food’ and ‘ready
    to drink’, but thus exposed, is the Blessed Sacrament ever left unattended?

  14. Father S. says:

    As for transporting the Precious Blood–from a hospital chapel to an infirm person, for example–I have often wondered why there is not an ornate container for this. It would be lovely to have a small sterling vial or something of that sort equipped with an old fashioned dropper (i.e., not the baster style, but the old single rod style).

  15. pcstokell says:

    Fr Richard Leonard is a prominent Australian Jesuit

    Well. There it is.

  16. Jack Hughes says:

    In addition I’m mad about the idea that glass ‘reconiliation’ sorry Confessionals are a good idea, I really don’t want the posibility of people seeing me make a possiably emotional confession (some of them have been), I really don’t like glass tabernacles as I can’t see how they give Glory to God, I saw a very beautiful yet very simple tabernacle in Fatima.

  17. Elly says:

    JonM, that same thing happened at my former church. My family used to volunteer to wash the chalices after Mass and a lot of them still had Precious Blood inside of them so we would consume it. Sometimes we would also consume extra consecrated hosts if there were too many consecrated, but I’m not sure if they can really be called hosts since they came from actual bread and were all crumbly.

    I feel horrible thinking about that but at the time I didn’t know we were doing anything wrong. I thought we were being good Catholics and helping out in the church.

  18. Raymond says:

    @Jack Hughes: I think “closed” confessionals are a very Anglo-Irish-American phenomena. In the older churches of Europe, Latin America, and Asia, partially-open confessionals are quite the norm. See the example:


    That said, I am not in favor of glass confessionals or tabernacles either.

  19. Tim Ferguson says:

    If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the report, then the pastor is indeed guilty of some grave violations of the law.

    However, I find myself even more critical of the diocesan bishop who has permitted this. The law (specifically canon 396-398) lay out the general law on each diocesan bishop’s obligation to make a pastoral visitation of his entire diocese at least every five years (either personally or, if he has been legitimately impeded, through the coadjutor bishop, an auxiliary, vicar general, episcopal vicar or another presbyter). The details of this visitation are spelled out with greater specificity in other parts of the code (e.g. canon 535, on the bishop’s obligation to inspect the sacramental records).

    In far too many places, this visitation has been neglected, or has been reduced to a mere formality. No real visitation takes place – the bishop comes for confirmation (maybe) and dinner with the pastor. Unless there are many letters of complaint from the parish, few bishops take their pastoral oversight seriously and probe into the liturgical propriety, pastoral sollicitude, or doctrinal orthodoxy of the parishes under their care.

    Surely this remodeling was done with some sort of approval by the bishop. Surely he’s seen this – either in person, or in pictures in the diocesan newsletter. Perhaps he’s not scheduled to make his official visitation of this parish for four years, but really – can he truly plead ignorance?

    Another point that jumps out at me is the pastor’s written statement, “for the first time in my life, I could see at all times the elements toward which I direct my devotion.” Huh? His devotion is directed toward the elements???? Where did this priest study his sacramental theology?

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    Jesuits. Grrrr.

  21. New Sister says:

    @ Raymond – yikes! How I avoided those open-air confessionals when I lived in France! (although they do make the penitent get to the point – quick!)

  22. sekman says:

    Hmm, My pastor has before reserved the Most Precious Blood in the tabernacle in a small vile with a syringe, explaining to me that he took communion to a woman who could no longer swallow solid food. Upon reading this I would venture to guess that this is a serious problem, am I correct?

  23. smad0142 says:

    This is just me .02 but what this Parish is really yearning for devotionally is Eucharistic Adoration.

  24. hawkeye says:

    One of the churches I attended lately has a glass tabernacle which is in a small chapel. There is a small Monstrance in the tabernacle which contains the Host. Everything in this Church is octagonal – altar, adoration chapel, the Church itself. Anyone know the significance of this?

  25. CarpeNoctem says:

    sekman– That is exactly the rare circumstance and the proper thing to do when reserving the Precious Blood for the sick. I, too, have had a parishioner who could only take drops of the Precious Blood, so we had a small, discrete, airtight-sealable, blessed, glass container with a glass eye-dropper set aside exclusively for this usage. The Precious Blood would be drawn out of the chalice discretely at the credence table during Mass while I was purifying the vessels and then placed in the tabernacle. It was used for Holy Commuion administered exclusively by me, and the container was purified after every use upon returning to the church. When the parishioner died, the bottle and apparatus was properly ‘retired’.

    This seemed the best judgment at the time. Since that time I have become familiar with the use of a silver straw as an option, but this seems 1) inconsistent with tradition, save papal Masses, and 2) not as graceful or “safe” a situation with respect to administering Communion and then having to purify it “in the field”. One is still relegated to using a small glass vial, it would seem, as I am not aware of any vessels made of metal that are suitable for this kind of ministry.

    One thing to note, sacramental theologians say that to receive the Precious Blood, it is necessary that one receives enough to swallow… simply tasting and absorbing in the mouth is not enough. Because this patient could not swallow well, it was a dicey situation to help her receive without aspirating. My understanding is that it is never appropriate to use a NG tube or ‘feeding tube’ to administer Holy Communion. This is certainly a rabbit-hole, but if there is any data on that out there, I’d appreciate feedback… these are the real-life situations which are never taught in seminary, but instead relies on prudential judgment.

  26. The Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, which was built/rebuilt by the Crusaders, was octagonal. Eight is a Christological number, because Sunday is the Eighth Day, the Day of the Resurrection that creates the world anew.

    Some people believe that, before it was knocked down to make way for the Muslim Dome of the Rock, the Byzantine church of the Presentation of Mary that used to be on top of the Temple Mount was octagonal, and they point to the traditional depiction of the Temple in icons of the Presentation of Mary. Since Mary is part of God’s plan to re-create humanity and all Creation, that would make sense.

  27. This article has more about early Christians using the octagon, and the number 8 in Jewish tradition — and in our current Catechism:


  28. ruadhri says:

    Further to Suburbanbanshee, I believe the octagon features in the very early Christian church at Megiddo in Israel, and the house of St Peter at Capharnaum, which became a church, is octagonal.

  29. sekman says:

    Carpe Noctem,
    I am most grateful for your informative and thorough response, It would be interesting to see if there is some sort of metal apparatus for the given situation.

  30. Clinton says:

    Yes smad0142, it would seem that Fr. Leonard has inadvertently reinvented Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, only his
    version eschews the norms the Church has set up to insure the dignity of the Eucharist is respected.

  31. evener says:

    A man approached a Franciscan Priest & asked, ” father can you say a novena for me? I want a new Mercedes.” The father of course said no & sent him off. Again he asked a Dominican Priest to say that novena for a new Mercedes & was told no. Finally he went to a Jesuit Priest & asked for the novena for that Mercedes & was told,
    “Maybe I can help you , but what’s a novena?

  32. Jack Hughes says:

    Evener, stop bashing the Jesuits, they are recovering from the fallout of Vatican 2, I know of many fine Jesuits in the world today and if the mutterings I’ve heard are right then the current crop of Novices are extremely good

  33. AnAmericanMother says:


    The way I heard it, the Franciscan asked “What’s a Mercedes?” and the Jesuit asked, “What’s a novena?”


    Of course you’re right — I know some extremely good (very) old Jesuits and also some very holy young ones. It’s the middle-aged ones that are a bit problematic. But they’re noisy.

  34. Introibo2009 says:

    It is correct to state that glass tabernacles are strictly forbidden – the teaching of the Church has already been quoted above. All questions of whether “opaque” glass might be OK are to be soundly squashed; glass is not a noble material, it is far too common for the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. So also it goes for glass distribution vessels; only poor interpretation of the Church’s documents could possibly allow for use of such a profane material for such a sacred purpose.

    All that said, there is a parish in my diocese that has a glass tabernacle, not only in a room off to the side, but not even in the church proper. This means that the kids in the parish can easily go through their entire education without ever once kneeling or genuflecting before the Holy Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle. And we wonder why vocations are wanting…

    As for pouring the Precious Blood of Christ from one vessel to another, this too is absolutely forbidden. Still, I’ve seen deacons do this during the Communion Rite at Mass.

    If only there was a way to upload Redemptionis Sacramentum directly into the hearts and minds of all Catholics…

  35. evener says:

    For Jack Hughes & all who read this site- My daughter went to USF & thanks to a theology class ( taught by a protestant, no less) she came home quite the heretic.
    But the now old joke is very uncharitable. Please accept my apology for using this site for some revenge.

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    Jesuits have caused enough trouble already. This report about yet another dissenting Jesuit doesn’t surprise me at all.

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