Brick by Brick: Altar boy scores WDTPRS kudos

For your “Brick by Brick” file, from a reader:

I thought you might be interested to know about something that one of the altar boys did after Mass today – I know I was impressed!

We had a visiting priest at our parish celebrate the Ordinary Form today, and, during Communion, he dropped a consecrated host on the floor. The priest immediately picked up the host and gave it right back to the person who was receiving, and made no effort to not step in the area where the Sacred Host was dropped.

After Mass, I saw a server walk out of the sacristy with a purificator. He walked over to the spot where the Sacred Host was dropped and put the purificator over it. He then went and got another priest to purify the area.

I was overjoyed when I saw this! This server also knelt for communion!

WDTPRS kudos to the kid.  Not so much for the first priest.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Let’s chalk that one solidly into the ‘win’ column

  2. doodler says:

    If I had been the priest I would have consumed the dropped host myself and given a new one to the communicant.

  3. Could someone, preferable Fr. Z or those with knowledge of sacramental liturgy please explain why this has to happen? I understand with the Precious Blood it’s substance, not its essence, is still liquid fermented grape product and therefore can be absorbed by a purificator cloth.
    However a Blessed Host is a solid and is already “purified” or consecrated. So the priest has to purify an area already touched by something sacred or purified (in essence)? This doesn’t make sense. Something sanctified cannot desanctify something as that would be contrary. Furthermore that’s the Body of Jesus Christ which is sanctified and holy! He cannot by his very nature as God Made Flesh, who is perfectly holy and sanctified, desanctify something either as that would be contrary to His Divine nature.

  4. DLe says:

    I’m guessing it has to do with the potential for small particles of the host to remain on the ground even after the host has been picked up.

  5. Johnny Domer says:

    Young Canadian RC Male,

    You’re getting your terminology messed up. You’re using the word “substance” in the wrong way, and then getting confused by bringing in the term “essence.” The Eucharist has its substance (its true nature, what it truly “is”: the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ) and its accidents (its appearance, taste, texture, everything that the senses can perceive–which are those of bread and wine).

    “Purify” is the term used for cleaning something that has touched the Eucharist in order to make sure that no particles of the Eucharist were left behind and thus become subject to unintended decay, misuse, etc. Wherever the accidents of bread and wine are present, the substance of Our Lord is also present, so this is why priests do well to make sure every crumb from the Hosts and every drop of the Precious Blood is consumed.

    In the case of ciboria and chalices, this is generally done by the priest pouring water into the vessel, drinking the liquid along with any fragments of the Host/drops of the Precious Blood that might have remained, and then drying out the water left the vessel with a linen purificator.

    Normally, a priest only purifies chalices that held the Precious Blood or a ciborium that held some Hosts, but if a Host hits the ground, you need to make sure that no crumbs from the host remain on the ground. I’m not sure what all the procedures are, but I know you’re supposed to cover the spot where the host fell with a purificator immediately so nobody steps on the area, and then the priest washes the spot somehow.

    I think you’re getting confused by the term “purify,” since you rightly are wondering how something can become more pure if the Eucharist is removed from it. I think (and others can correct me) that we are simply using the term “purify” in a colloquial sort of way. Once a vessel is “purified,” it’s safe to put it away, to handle it reverently but not with the kind of extreme caution and reverence one would need if the Eucharist were present, etc. Once a spot on the floor is purified, it’s safe to walk there without any threat of accidentally stepping on the Eucharist.

  6. Dr Guinness says:

    Just goes to show what the new generation are made of… Biological solution, anyone?

  7. ray from mn says:

    I’m rather appalled that the first priest gave the Host that had been dropped on the floor to the communicant. He should have consumed it himself.

  8. Precentrix says:

    Young Canadian,

    Firstly, let’s get the language right: we all know what you mean, but the ‘accidents’ are of bread/wine – it seems like that to all our senses – while the ‘substance’ – meaning as you put it ‘essence’ – changes. The confusion is that we talk about ‘chemical substances’ etc…. the chemistry remains the same in the sense that all reactions are to do with ‘accidents’ or physical attributes of ‘stuff’….

    What we mean by ‘purifying’ isn’t the consecration, but rather the cleansing or ritual purification of things that have come into contact with the sacred – think of all the ablutions in the Old Testament. Your right in saying that this seems less necessary with the Host than with the Precious Blood, but if you look at one of Fr. Z’s pictures with the black gloves, you’ll see that there are usually many small particles left where it has touched. This is one of the reasons why I prefer not to receive Holy Communion in the hand.

    We need to make it clear that the Host isn’t being purified – what it has *touched* is in need of purification. Not because the Host has ‘defiled’ the floor (or whatever) in some way, but for precisely the opposite reason. Remember what happened to those who touched the Ark? Or the way only the priests were allowed to even see – much less handle – the altar etc. inside the Tabernacle?

    And that probably wasn’t very clear……. Think of it in Jewish terms… ritual cleanliness and uncleanness. If something unclean touched something else, the second thing became unclean. But if something holy and consecrated to God touched another thing, that thing also became consecrated to God (meaning you couldn’t use it for anything else) unless you did something about it.

  9. mrsmontoya says:

    Thank you for posting. We usually sit in the first few pews, and have seen this happen occasionally. I am glad to learn a reverent way to deal with the situation.

  10. haribo says:

    It was my understanding that purification wasn’t required. It’s not mentioned in the GIRM. Here is the section on purification:

    “278. Whenever a fragment of the host adheres to his fingers, especially after the fraction or after the Communion of the faithful, the Priest should wipe his fingers over the paten or, if necessary, wash them. Likewise, he should also gather any fragments that may have fallen outside the paten.

    279. The sacred vessels are purified by the Priest, the Deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, in so far as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then consumed by whoever does the purification. The paten is wiped clean as usual with the purificator.

    Care is to be taken that whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ after the distribution of Communion is consumed immediately and completely at the altar.

    280. If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently; and if any of the Precious Blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy.”

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    True there’s nothing in the GIRM requiring purifying the floor in that instance but there could have been small fragments remaining on the floor so it is a reverent thing to do. I definitely think that altar boy deserves kudos!

  12. What a miracle that this was posted. I was waiting for something on this very matter to come up here so I could get some direction. I have two things that have been bothering me.

    Our parish is about 45 miles from us and since gas has been so high we will attend a parish closer to us several times a month. We sit up front and are able to see the Altar servers clearly. I noticed an Altar boy, 14 years old, who was very pious. When all the EMHCs would go to the Altar to receive, in a semi-circle, the servers were there as well. This little fella would kneel down when the priest approached him. After he received, he would go to his kneeler and he looked like he’d gone into another dimension. Since a new pastor came to this parish two months ago, I noticed that this little guy wasn’t serving anymore, at least not at the Masses I was attending, but he was always there in suit and tie.

    At Mass on Sunday, the 27th, we went to our usual pew and there he was, sitting at the end in his suit and tie. I decided that I would try and meet him after Mass and tell him that I appreciated his respect for Our Lord and that I was pleased to see that there are still young men that “get it.” Well, it came time for Holy Communion. This boy was in front of me and was preparing to kneel for Holy Communion when the woman EMHC standing next to the priest dropped Jesus. He and I both gasped and were watching her. Poor Jesus went in two directions but when she stooped down to pick Him up, she knocked off more of the Host that went between the priest and her. I was beside myself.
    When I got back to my pew I was watching to see if Father was going to halt everything and immediately pick Jesus up and cleanse the area. It was only after Holy Communion that the priest walked over and picked up the large portion that had broken when hitting the floor, but never bothered to cleanse the area between he and the woman. I could see large particles on the floor. After Mass the priest and servers just walked right over the area and I wanted to cry. I wanted t run up, remove my veil and cover Jesus; that was my first thought. My husband would have killed me.

    I found the pious young man after Mass and walked up to him, introduced myself and told him that I was very taken with his piety and he thanked me. There was a woman standing next to him listening. Come to find out that this fella is a convert and his parents are not Catholic. He told me that the new pastor told him he could no longer serve on the Altar because when he knelt down to receive Communion he was breaking uniformity with the others. I was horrified.

    We were all discussing the particles on the floor and the lady that was with the young man, his Confirmation sponsor, said that someone needed to say something. The little fella told me that he would but he had already been called down by the pastor for bringing to his attention some liberal author he was publishing in the bulletin.

    My dilemma is this; not being a member of that parish, do I have a right as a member of the Church Militant to approach the pastor at a parish other than mine concerning the way Our Lord was disrespected after being dropped? I tried saying something once before concerning something that was going on somewhere else and was basically told to butt out because I was not a member. Gee, I thought we all belonged to the same One Holy Catholic Church and the laity were called to voice concerns. I didn’t know parish lines divided us into different sects or whatever. We all belong to the same Church.

    Anyway, my other question is this. When the fella told me that he always knelt to receive, I told him that they couldn’t tell him not to. I told him to write to the bishop because it did no good for his parents to go to the pastor about it. Was I wrong to tell him to stand his ground? And believe me, this kid is very humble so I know he was respectful in his approach to the pastor. I am thinking now that I gave bad advice and that I should have told him that if he wanted to serve to listen to the pastor even if he is wrong. What should I do?

    I think that it is terrible to treat such a pious young man the way this boy has been treated. I am surprised that he didn’t leave the Church, but when one thinks they are called to the priesthood, they don’t allow these setbacks to bother them.

    Any advise would be helpful. Thank you in advance.

  13. dnicoll says:

    I am shocked at the priest in this blog, for two reasons. The first, Catholic, reason is that to me he shows disrespect to the Body of our Lord – which is about as serious as it gets. The second, secular, reason is that insofar as UK regulations go anyway, he was displaying a rank disregard for food hygiene regulations and if a restaurant served me bread that had been dropped on the floor I’d be reporting them to Environmental Health regulators.

  14. albinus1 says:

    I’m rather appalled that the first priest gave the Host that had been dropped on the floor to the communicant. He should have consumed it himself.

    dnicoll kind of beat me to it: I’m surprised that the communicant accepted a Host that had been dropped on the floor.

  15. Banjo pickin girl says:

    albinus1, I have discovered that many people believe that germs can’t reside on a consecrated host. I don’t buy it of course because it shows a lack of understanding of accidents vs. substance.

  16. New Sister says:

    And may we extend “kudos” to the boy’s mother, who must have formed him so well.

  17. Luke Whittaker says:

    Wonderful story about that altar boy’s clear belief in the Real Presence!

    Regarding the first priest, it’s possible that he read Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Philosophy of Composition instead of Aristotle on composition.

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