QUAERITUR: A host found on the altar after Mass.

From a reader:

This morning I attended a Mass that was celebrated by a VERY old priest; just a simple daily Mass, nothing fancy, no smells or bells.

When it came time for the prayers of consecration, it seemed as if the priest could not find the “larger” host, so he used one the smaller
ones. All is well.

BUT after Mass when the sacristan was bringing everything back to the sacristy, I watched him pick up a host from the very end of the altar and bring it back to the sacristy. My first thought was, “wait a
second, I think that host is consecrated!”

So my question is, do all hosts that are present on the altar, whether they are directly involved in the prayers of consecration or not, become the Body and Blood?

Thank you, this has been buggin’ me all day. Just say the word and
I’ll break into that sacristy to save the True Presence from the pile
of non-Jesus wafers.

In general, the well-trained priest intends to consecrate what is placed within the confines of the corporal spread on the altar. He makes a moral intention to consecrate what stands on the corporal. He could intend to consecrate other elements as well, but usually the corporal provides a standard “consecration zone”, as it were.

However, it may that a consecrated Host got away during the consolidation of two partially filled ciboria. I can’t say anything more about that possibility.  Who knows?

Where there is doubt in cases like this, the finder could consume the host in question or, taking it to the priest or, in the case of a sacristan, he himself could place it in a cup of water. When entirely dissolved, the liquid is poured down the sacrarium.

When you find a host somewhere other than on the altar itself or in the sacristy, it might be a good idea to assume that it was consecrated and carried away by some person and thrown away.

Finally, if you know that throwing away the Eucharist, or giving or selling it to someone else is the gravest of sins and one that incurs an excommunication, you in fact incur latae sententiae – by the very fact of doing it – an excommunication, the lifting of which is reserved to the Holy See or a confessor to whom the Holy See has given the faculty.  The Holy See, not the local bishop.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Templar says:

    Father z said: “In general, the well-trained priest intends to consecrate what is placed within the confines of the corporal spread on the altar.”

    This raises a question I have often been curious about. All of the extra Chalices used by the EMHCs are lined up on the extreme edge of the Altar, as far as you can get from the corporal and still be on the Altar. Does this mean that those Chalices are never actually consecrated? I know they are filled before Mass, also never mixed with water as is the Priests Chalice. If the contents of the extra Chalices are never actually consecrated are these EMHC’s just “pretending”?

  2. Kypapist says:

    If a priest runs out of consecrated hosts and prays the epiclesis over new hosts with the intention of consecrating them, are they in fact consecrated? The priest who did this claimed that Paul VI did this to “consecrate” bags of hosts for a papal mass which had been forgotten in the sacristy and not put on the altar.

  3. Random Friar says:

    At a parish where I would help, there would be a few extra-low gluten hosts to the side, by the corner of the altar. The priest would then place those hosts in a little open pyx on the corporal, if the gluten intolerant would assist at that particular Mass. I’m not sure why they just left them on the corner.

    Since I would only occasionally help there, I had no idea of who was who, so I always had the deacon keep an eye out. It confused me the first time. I then simply intended to consecrate that which was in my patens and ciboria.

  4. James Joseph says:

    I sometimes go to a parish where the law of the land dictates that you are not supposed to recieve the most Blessed Sacrament unless you scoop up an altar bread from a big bowl containing them on a side-table and place it into a brass ciborium on the same table.

    Serious question that I think everytime: Aside from an attack of conscience, what stops someone, as a sort of cruel joke, from slipping a corn-chip or something else into the bottom of the ciborium where it would go unseen until it is too late?

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