QUAERITUR: taking a chalice home to pray for vocations

From a reader:

There is a “program” at Church, where a family takes the Chalice Home with them to pray for an increase in vocations. Now, our parish is supposed to be the most conservative in the area, and our Pastor is a genuinely good Priest, so I do not doubt his good intentions. But in my mind, the sacred vessels should not be handled by anyone other than ordained, or appointed (altar boys) ministers. Nor should they leave the Church except to be used for Mass. Am I mistaken in this?

I am of the opinion that a priest’s hands are consecrated for a reason.  They are to handle sacred things.

I have heard something of a program like that which you describe.  I suspect that the chalice is not actually consecrated.

That said, I think this is a pretty good idea.  If this program will spur some prayers for vocations, then all the better.  At the same time, there should be assiduous effort in the parish church as well, and not just in homes.  I am pleased that the priest there at that parish is advancing something this constructive.

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  1. Alice says:

    I worked at a school that did the Vocations Chalice. After two years of praying, we had an alum go to seminary :) I don’t know if the chalice was consecrated or not. I think that the pastor mentioned that it had never been used.

  2. cnaphan says:

    I’m reminded of Tertullian’s quip about modesty, that it consists not only of being so, but of seeming so as well.

    Since most people expect a chalice to be consecrated, they all should be treated with some decorum and discretion, consecrated or not. Otherwise, it causes scandal and confuses people. I’m not saying it is being treated disrespectfully here but it is confusing and ambiguous to most people, as evidenced by the original inquirer.

    A photograph of a chalice would seem to be a better choice, maybe, or a statue of Our Lady or a saint associated with vocations (maybe St. Aloysius Gonzaga). Or better yet, the High Priest himself in the Blessed Sacrament in a chapel.

    I do sympathize with the intentions, however.

  3. Jaybirdnbham says:

    The parish close to my mother’s house (another diocese from mine) does this, and the chalice is called an Elijah Cup. It’s one of the consecrated chalices that are used at Sunday Mass, and just before the final blessing a previously-chosen family comes up to receive it from the pastor, with instructions to pray for vocations that week.

  4. JulieC says:

    Sorry to go off topic, but this reminds me of a questionable practice at our parish church.

    My boys are altar servers and often help the sacristan set up the altar for Mass and will place the chalice and ciborium on the altar before Mass. However, one of the priests recently began training the boys to set the chalice and ciborium on the credence table before Mass and then they have been instructed to move both to the altar at the Offertory (allegedly as a signal that the Liturgy of the Word as over and the Liturgy of the Eucharist has begun.)

    After Communion the boys are expected to take the ciborium and chalice back to the credence table before the end of Mass.

    I don’t doubt that it’s alright for the altar boys to handle the chalice and ciborium when they’re helping the sacristan set up for Mass, but it strikes me as really inappropriate for them to be transferring the sacred vessels back and forth during Mass as a liturgical action, esp. when the priest is right there on the altar. Does anyone have any information on whether this is a legitimate practice?

  5. Our parish did something similar during our Archdiocese’s year of prayer for priestly vocations. The pastor used old ‘common cups’ (the small chalices used for distribution of the precious blood) which had become unfit for use due to age and wear. They were mounted to a wooden base with a back board that had a vocations prayer on it. The result was, IMHO, attractive and reverent. We also had a special vocations prayer during the Prayers of the Faithful at all of the masses.

    We now have an active vocation discernment group at the parish with a half-a-dozen young men interested in the priesthood, so it looks like it helped!

  6. SonofMonica says:

    We’re doing this at my parish right now, taking turns taking a chalice and paten home to pray for vocations. Seems like a good idea. I just hope that our pastor and the vocations commission realizes that we shouldn’t be actively working against what we’re praying for, as we currently allow a plethora of unordained folks into the sanctuary who shouldn’t be there, every Sunday.

  7. beez says:

    I like the idea, and I seriously doubt any family willing to bring the chalice home and pray for vocations is likely to treat it without due respect.

    In answer to Julie’s question, #73 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:
    First, the altar, the Lord’s table, which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, is prepared by placing on it the corporal, purificator, Missal, and chalice (unless the chalice is prepared at the credence table)

    Number 139:
    An acolyte or other lay minister arranges the corporal, the purificator, the chalice, the pall, and the Missal upon the altar.

    Number 163:
    If the vessels are purified at the altar, they are carried to the credence table by a minister.

    What you are seeing is in complete agreement with the Church’s instructions.

  8. frhumphries says:

    The last time I was in Rome, I picked up a papal zucchetto. The plan in my parish is to pass that item around along with a prayer for the pope and for vocations. It seems to serve the same basic purpose without devaluing the sacred vessels.

  9. wanda says:

    We are doing this program at our Church as we speak. Here it is called ‘The Travelling Chalice’. The Chalice is given to one person or family each week. The Chalice (which once was in use at our Church) is afixed in a treasure-chest type box and a book of prayers for vocations goes along, as well. There are directions for handling the Chalice with great care and reverence and we are instructed not to remove the Chalice from it’s case. It may be displayed in a safe location in the home. Each family keeps the Chalice for the week, says the prayers included, and then returns it for the next family. The goal is to have the Chalice go home with every family in the parish.

    We are in desperate need of vocations to the Priesthood, especially here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. As we speak there are plans being made to cut the numbers of Masses due to the severe shortage of Priests. In some sections, there are Priests covering 2 and 3 parishes and more. Lord, please send out more laborers into your vineyard, Amen.

  10. Sword40 says:

    I have set up a Shrine in my home. It is set up exactly like a Tridentine Altar. I have a chalice that I bought on ebay. It came from South American and is new so its never been Blessed. I have an Altar crucifix and six candleholders, Altar cards, Missal and stand. If fact if a priest wanted to celebrate a Mass at the shrine, I suppose he could. There is no Altar stone, however.

  11. donboyle says:

    This is a big program in the Archdiocese of Atlanta–the “Elijah Cup.” A major focus is that the chalice has been consecrated and in fact used in the Mass just before it is given to the family to take home for the week. The idea is that you set it out where your family says their daily prayers together as a way to recall to pray for vocations.

  12. Fr. Thomas says:

    I think the most important thing in this discussion is that we pray for vocations, that we encourage vocations, and that we support vocations. Working in a seminary I see the fruits of all the work that the people of God are doing in their parishes and in their dioceses. I also see how humbled and thankful the seminarians are when they receive a note from someone they do not even know that is telling them that they are praying for them.

    Benedictine Prayer for Vocations

    Raise up, O Lord, in Thy Church,
    The Spirit where-with our holy Father
    Saint Benedict was animated,
    That, filled with the same,
    We may endeavor to love what he loved,
    And to practice what he taught.
    Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
    To Persevere in the service of Thy Will,
    That in our days the people who serve Thee
    May increase both in merit and in number.
    Through Christ our Lord.

    (300 Days Indulgence Once a Day)

  13. MatthewHood says:

    I think it might be better and more simple to have a traveling picture of Jesus. It just seems a little odd that one would go an pray in front of a chalice… especially one that is not even consecrated. That would be like praying around a tabernacle without the Blessed Sacrament inside. It is just a little strange.

  14. KristenB says:

    My parish has a cross, rather than a chalice.
    But my parish has never had a vocation, of any kind, since it’s founding 100 years ago.

  15. LaudemGloriae says:

    Sometimes I attend a parish where the vocations prayer after every Mass says something like “you called us not to set us apart but to bring us together” as concerns vocations. It always strikes me as very odd … isn’t the entire concept of “consecrated” life that one is “set apart” for that which is sacred?

    My primary parish prays 3 Hail Marys and a Glory Be after all the daily Masses and vocations are booming – 3 priests and a sister in just the past few years. There is an Elijah Cup program there as well. Though I credit the success to the 24/7 Adoration Chapel.

  16. Andrew Mason says:

    We have a similar program at my parish, I’ve often wondered myself whether it was allowable. I’m not sure how successful it’s been, we’ve had at least two young men enter seminary in the last several years but I’m not sure whether they entered before or after the Vocation Prayer Chalice program was started.

  17. JulieC says:

    Thanks so much, Beez, for the citation from GIRM. I do appreciate having an official clarification.

    Now I will definitely make sure that on Sunday mornings I head with my boys to an approved TLM where my sons can experience the ethos, reverence and discipline of the Usus Antiquior.

    Thank goodness we have opportunity to vote with our feet and avoid the handiwork of Msgr. Bugnini.

  18. Agnes of Prague says:

    Strange. I visited a friend’s house once when her family was doing the same “Chalice Program for Vocations” but it was just a nice ceramic cup in a chalice shape, definitely not a Mass chalice of precious metal. I didn’t know they actually lent out real Chalices in some places.

  19. DominiSumus says:

    My parish, which has had a number of priestly vocations and two men currently studying for the diaconate, has a Vocations Crucifix which travels from home to home. Father was uncomfortable with the idea of a traveling chalice which was recommended by our vocations prayer group.

  20. joan ellen says:

    Fr. has a Chalice go home each week with a parishioner or family at St. Isidore’s in Grand Rapids. One of the young men in the parish told me this past summer that there are approximately 30 others besides himself considering the priesthood from the area. St. Isidore’s has had many priests come from that parish in the past. St. Isidore’s also has a Pope John Paul II Perpetual Adoration Chapel (10 years), a Pope John Paul II Clergy House, and confessions, usually with a line, before each weekend and daily Mass, an EF Mass on Monday, a strong WNO (Wednesday Nite Out) program which is for most of the Catechetical and other activities in the Parish. St. Isidore’s church will be 100 years old in 2012.

  21. Fr. Basil says:

    \\I am of the opinion that a priest’s hands are consecrated for a reason. They are to handle sacred things.\\

    There is no anointment of a deacon’s hands in any rite that I know of, yet the deacon handles sacred things: not only the chalice and paten, but he is an ordinary minister of Holy Communion, and anciently would minister the Blood of Christ to the faithful.

    There is no anointing of the sub-deacon’s hands, either, yet in the Extraordinary Form at a Missa Solemnis, does he not hold the paten during the Canon?

    Pope Pius XII defined that the major orders of deacon, presbyter, and bishop are conferred by the laying on of the hierarch’s hands, with the appropriate prayer. While the unction of the hands is a comely ceremony, what can it possibly add?

    Don’t forget that in the Byzantine rite of ordaining to major orders, there is no chrism used at all.

    (The propriety of sending home a chalice with the faithful to pray for vocations is not being discussed here. Why not a stole, crucifix, or appropriate icon? Wouldn’t that do just as well?)

  22. pitkiwi says:

    joan ellen:

    I believe the Chapel has been open for closer to 16 years.

    Also of note, out of the 14 seminarians of the Grand Rapids Diocese (103 parishes and missions), 4 of the current seminarians are from St. Isidore. Proportionately, St. Isidore is providing about 2943% of its share of the seminarians for the Diocese (14 seminarians / 103 parishes = about .14 current seminarians per parish; 4 seminarians from St. Isidore / .14 = 2943%).

    My point: the chalice is a GREAT way to not only encourage prayer for vocations (and for people to hear the call), its also a great way for an entire community to pray for vocations.

    All talk these days seems to be about closing parishes, combining parishes, giving pastors multiple parishes. Others talk about allowing married men to become priests, etc.

    Yet it seems everyone is forgetting the one obvious, easy and effective solution: pray. Pray often. And don’t give up. St. Isidore’s priests and pastor get it. The results speak for themselves.

  23. pitkiwi says:

    What I meant to say at the end there was that St. Isidore’s priests and PARISHIONERS get it – sorry for the miss-type.

  24. ckdexterhaven says:

    My parish does this, I might even belong to the same parish as the letter writer.

    Our priest is serious about vocations. I have never been in a parish where the priest took it as seriously. This priest is the first to ask my sons if they’ve ever considered becoming a priest! I am so grateful for the Chalice program. Before, when listening to members of the Church talk about ‘vocations’, I thought to myself “how nice for *someone else’s son*” Now, I think maybe “*one of my sons*!”

    I’m so grateful for our priest.

  25. DBuote says:

    We do a vocations chalice program home. The chalice is a consecrated one, although it no longer used. It is encased in a glass box, which is very beautifully decorated. The chalice therefor is never handled itself by anyone, and it is treated with the out most respect because of the casing around it.

  26. irishgirl says:

    In the parish where I go for Perpetual Adoration there is a ‘Traveling Vocations Crucifix’ instead of a Chalice. A family signs up and keeps the Crucifix in their home for a week, praying for vocations.
    Each week in the bulletin the ‘host’ family’s name is mentioned.

  27. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    My parish has a program like this. I’m fairly certain the chalice had been used, at least once, but it was not used immediately prior to giving it to a family to take home.

    The chalice was provided for the program by the KofC and the idea was that should anybody go onto to become ordained, they would receive the chalice as a gift, and then a new chalice would be bought for the program.

  28. joan ellen says:

    1. pitkiwi – Thank you for the St. Isidore PEA Chapel correct number of years.
    2. ckdexterhaven – Thank you for the calculations RE: GR Diocese # of Seminarians. That is really impressive.
    3. ckdexterhaven – The priest I am thinking of is very spiritually oriented and this carries over into the parish, though they do fun things there also.
    4. The SSPX, after the Holy Sacrifice, pray: Lord, Grant Us Priests. Lord, Grant Us Many Priests.
    Lord, Grant Us Many Holy Priests. Lord, Grant Us Many Holy Religious Vocations. Is it any wonder that Bishop Fellay is looking for a new seminary building?
    5. The Blessed Mother said it: Pray, Pray, Pray. And she say there should be a Chalice, Crucifix, etc. And, we know they help us to pay attention, not to mention the added graces, strength and protection.

  29. joan ellen says:

    Oh, dear. Forgot to mention the priest at St. Isidore’s can be seen at another church praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. And he’s not there for just a quick Hail Mary either.
    The Blessed Mother speaks of Sacramentals in some of her apparitions…should be “and she said…”

  30. Cricket says:

    Several parishes in my (pretty orthodox) midwestern diocese have a similar “Travelling Chalice” program. If memory serves, the chalice is brand new, never consecrated. After its mission is complete it’s to be presented to a newly-ordained priest as a gift from parishioners.

  31. MJ says:

    I’m afraid I must disagree with Father Z…

    A priest’s hands are consecrated for a reason. Laity expect and usually presume a chalice to be consecrated, and for that reason I think it is (for lack of a better adjective) unhealthy to allow the laity to remove *normally consecrated* items from the Church.

    Perhaps the chalices in these instances are not consecrated and the laity are made aware of that fact — if the situation is as Cricket described (“…the chalice is brand new, never consecrated. After its mission is complete it’s to be presented to a newly-ordained priest as a gift from parishioners”) it’s probably fine and sounds like a very touching gift for a newly-ordained priest.

    However, I still would go for the safe side and say that it’s not a good idea to let people get in the habit of thinking that it’s okay to remove *normally consecrated* objects from the Church. Plus, there is too much room for error — perhaps the chalice actually is consecrated, in which case it should not be removed from the Church. Case in point, Salvatore_Giuseppe said, “My parish has a program like this. I’m fairly certain the chalice had been used, at least once, but it was not used immediately prior to giving it to a family to take home.” It doesn’t matter how long the chalice was used prior to giving it to a family to take home, if it was consecrated it should not have been given to the family.

    There are many other ways that prayers for vocations can be stressed and encouraged — one does not need a chalice in one’s home in order to pray for vocations.

  32. MJ says:

    A bit more…to provide some meat to my opinion…

    ST. SIXTUS I (115-125). Prohibited the faithful from touching the Sacred Vessels: “Statutum est ut sacra vasa non ab aliis quam a sacratis Dominoque dicatis contrectentur hominibus…” [It has been decreed that the Sacred Vessels are not to be handled by others than by those consecrated and dedicated to the Lord.]

    ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274). “Out of reverence towards this sacrament [the Holy Eucharist], nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest’s hands, for touching this sacrament.” (Summa Theologica, Pars III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8)

    POPE JOHN PAUL II: “It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another.” (Inaestimabile Donum, April 17, 1980, sec. 9)

    Touching the Sacred Vessels before, during, and after cleaning is an issue. Every fragment of the Host and Precious Blood is 100% God in all of His divinity. If the chalice has been consecrated it has held Our Lord, and it may still contain minute particles of His Body and Blood.

  33. BLB Oregon says:

    I was under the impression that the prohibition on handling the sacred vessels applied when the Blessed Sacrament was present, although even later the items are always sacramentals, forever afterward, until they are disposed of so that their identity is lost.

    I stand ready to be corrected, but I was taught that the Blessed Sacrament retains its identity only as long as it retains the appearance of bread and wine. Once a vessel has been ritually cleansed so that any remaining particles are not even visible, how can it be possible that the vessel still contains the Blessed Sacrament? It is permanently blessed by reason of its prior service, but not because the Blessed Sacrament is still present.

    Since Our Lord is just as present in the Blessed Sacrament under the appearance of wine as under the appearance of bread, surely if we ladies can take the purificators home and wash them and iron them, it is permissible when there is good reason for the sacred vessels to leave the building of the church, assuming of course that they have been ritually purified by the priest or deacon prior to being sent out.

    (I do have to admit that I think of purificators as the equal of St. Veronica’s veil: very precious items, indeed.)

  34. Supertradmum says:

    I like the idea, but not with a chalice. In our area, we have a huge following of the occult, and there are people who would love to steal a chalice. I am sure a crucifix, or a statue of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron of seminarians, seems more appropriate.

    As a sacristan for years, I think the chalice is too sacred to lend out to private houses, even for prayer.

  35. Juergensen says:

    Our parish has such a program.

    It is run by the Knights of Columbus and uses a Chalice that has a Knights of Columbus marking. Once a month, the Chalice is on the Altar during Mass (not sure to what extent it is used during the Mass), and after Mass a little ceremony is held by the Priest in which the Chalice is passed from one family to another to pray for vocations for a month.

    I think it is a wonderful program, my family having brought the Chalice home several times already.

    My son in particular likes to hold the Chalice as he recites the vocations prayer from one of the prayer cards that come with the Chalice.

    I think the Chalice makes more of an impression on a young boy, as he ponders how as a priest he might one day Consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ.

    God willing.

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