QUAERITUR: Does wine in a cruet left on the altar also get consecrated?

From a reader:

During week day Masses the priest at our parish sometimes has no
server. In this circumstance he obviously has to go to the credence
table himself to get the gifts. After pouring the water and wine into
the Chalice he leaves both cruets on the Altar during the Eucharistic
Prayer. So is the wine transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ? The
wine is used at other Masses later int he week, hence my concerned.

No. The wine in the cruet on the altar is not consecrated simply because it left is on the altar.

The priest would have to intend the consecrate it, which is unlikely, since he doesn’t pour it into the chalice.

The rule of thumb is that the priest intends to consecrate the wine with water in the chalice and the hosts which are placed within the confines of the corporal spread out on the altar.

Which brings me to something which seems to be a growing problem.

As our liturgical world crumbled over the last few decades, many good-hearted people willing to take care of altar linens are confused about how to iron a corporal.

I recommend a booklet by Angelus Press on this topic.  Click HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’ve just looked at the book you recommend and it looks very much as though the corporal shown on the cover is upside down!! I understood that it should be spread so that when re-folded any minute crumbs would be folded into the corporal like an envelope. I’m sure it’s an excellent book but……….? [So the person who took the cover photo got it wrong. The corporal is correctly ironed, which is the point.]

  2. doodler says:

    I disagree – a corporal is only ironed that way so that it can be used properly. My point is that no matter who took the photograph (and it was probable someone who knew nothing about liturgy) some proof-reader should have picked up the error. I may be thought picky, but I believe that outward show is not the most important thing. I refuse to use altar linen which is not ironed correctly. [Thus missing the point again. It is ironed correctly. Someone simply put in on the surface wrong-side-up for the sake of that photo. If the chalice were upside-down, standing on the cup rather than the base, the chalice would still be a perfectly decent chalice in the hands of a priest who would place it correctly.]

  3. LarryPGH says:


    Maybe the cover photo appears as it does, so that when one finishes reading the book, he looks at the photo with newly-gained insight that he didn’t possess when he first opened the book? ;^)

    (P.S., would this be an appropriate spot to mention a pet-peeve or two — like corporals placed upside-down during Mass (like the one on the cover) which then become difficult to fold properly following Communion; or worse, watching someone at the altar pick up a corporal after Communion and flip it, so that it might fold more easily? Agh!)

  4. Precentrix says:

    Or worse… the sacristaine (middle to old-aged woman, of course) who picks up the corporal after Mass and shakes it out, thus throwing any small particles that might remain on it all over the floor.

  5. Supertradmum says:


    Please do not be sexist or agist, as it is offensive. Many older women work hard long hours free for the Church as sacristans and this has been the case in some areas for centuries. There is a long tradition of single women, holy and responsible, working in such positions. The sacristan at the Church of the Circumcision in Malta is 81 years old and consecrated her life to God when in her 20s. She is a very holy woman and many people come and talk to her for spiritual wisdom, including young people.

    Most sacristans know the rules. I have only found desecration regarding the pieces of the Eucharist or the Host Himself after EHMCs have been in the sacristy at my former parish is Iowa, where several of the TLM men, who came in to set up after the NO Mass, had to speak with the priests and bishop about such problems.

    As one who has ironed corporals, I can assure readers that it was done correctly, as Father Z noted.

  6. heway says:

    I’m only commenting because of the previous remark – middle to old aged woman!
    Where are the men? I cannot find any who will assist the celebrant. We do not have any children in our middle to old age parish of 35. I purchased the booklet after finding out that the younger women do not know how to care for linens. As for shaking out the corporal -horrors, I’ve seen it happen once- this is the result of poor or missing catechesis. Do we expect people to be born with this knowledge? Most people today, shy away from anything that has to be starched! Sorry guys, had to get this off my mind.

  7. MominTexas says:

    Neat book! Seeing as most authors have no say about the cover image, I’m not reading anything into it.

  8. jhayes says:

    I noticed at the Pope’s Christmas Midnight (really 10 PM) Mass that the priests who were distribute Communion gathered before the Eucharistic Prayer in two clumps on the floor of he basilica next to the altar. Each held his own ciborium. My guess is that they contained unconsecrated hosts and the Pope expanded his intention to consecrate those hosts along with the ones on the altar.

  9. Nice to hear about “expanding an intention to consecrate.”

    A priest I know once grieved that a ciborium full of hosts to be consecrated had been left on a credence table back behind “all the action” (no one brought them to the altar, and he forgot to ask). When it came time to distribute Holy Communion, he “remembered” all those hosts in the ciborium now necessary for distribution of Communion which had not been on the altar during the consecration. He sincerely hoped that Deus supplet’d, because he distributed Holy Communion based on his intention which WOULD HAVE been to consecrate those hosts if he had only remembered.

    It sounded to me “unfortunate” but that God probably DID supplet. Thoughts? [Good grief. From this description, I seriously doubt it. He forgot them. This is why a priest has a moral intention to consecrate that which is on the altar upon the corporal.]

  10. MF says:

    Ironing the Corporal? Would that our priest would use a Corporal… The previous priest did not, and our current one seems intent on doing this “as they have always been.” It’s been mentioned in a letter to the Bishop, but so far, no changes.

  11. Leaving the curet on the altar…this mistake doesn’t happen when I serve Mass…hmmm, begs the question for the glass kool-aid pitchers that are left on the altar, and poured after consecration carelessly.

  12. Terry:

    It makes me shudder.

    My own practice is to avoid keeping a cruet of wine on the altar that I am not going to consecrate. (When I have Mass at a nursing home, the cruets, such as they are, are on the “altar”; so I empty the wine cruet into the chalice, and rinse out the remaining wine during the purification. No loose ends.) I do this for two reasons.

    First, while I know what my own intention is, I don’t like getting scrupulous thoughts later about it. I can be absent-minded and distracted, and it just keeps it all simpler and easier for me at that moment. I follow the practice I think our genial host suggests: I look at everything I intend to consecrate, as I do so.

    Second, I do it to avoid the sort of question that was asked.

    Back to your question about hosts not on the altar. I have had that happen, and you can be sure I wasn’t happy about it. One time I realized–before the consecration–that a large quantity of bread was still in the back of church, it hadn’t been brought forward! With fierce urgency I sent the server flying to the back to retrieve them; we would not have had enough of the Eucharist otherwise.

    Another time was a little different. A small pyx had been placed on the altar, closed. The server put it there because someone was going to take holy communion, after Mass, to the sick. I assumed the pyx was empty, and it was simply placed on the altar too early (I prefer it be brought to the altar at the fraction). Well, when I opened it to put hosts in it, later, only then did I discover it already had hosts in it! So I wondered, did I intend to consecrate those? I wasn’t happy about that, and I asked the server not to do it that way, and I learned the lesson of always opening any pyxs someone places on the altar.

    So what did I do? I distributed communion, and then I placed hosts in the pyx I knew had been consecrated, and I reverently consumed those of which I was doubtful. I really don’t know what else I could have done with a clean conscience.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Even long before Vatican II, women were commonly sacristans. These women trained each other or were trained by the priest. I was trained by nuns, two different orders, one in grade school and one in high school. The sacristan who trained me in high school, a nun, is still living, (amazing) and is the sacristan for her convent of retired nuns. She is still a perfectionist about good order and her ironing skills at the age of 82 or so, are impeccable. Most younger women I know do not iron anything, as I do. One of the things we pre-Vatican II girls did, besides be Handmaids of the Eucharistic Crusade (boys were Knights), was work in the “sacristy clubs”. The Eucharistic Crusade was picked up, or continued by the SSPX, but we did have those groups in the late 50s and 60s. We had to do good works, pray the rosary, honor the Eucharist, and some of the girls became sacristans out of those groups. I am sure TLM families could organise such and there is a lot online connected to the Knights and Handmaids of the Eucharistic Crusade.

  14. jbas says:

    I don’t know if it’s a matter of ironing or starching, but some corporals are so limp when folded that they are hard to get back into the burse.

  15. dcs says:

    I remember a few years ago a priest friend mentioning to me that in all his parish assignments he was the only priest who used a corporal. I think he had only had 2-3 assignments at the time, but still.

  16. doodler says:

    @jbas Burse? BURSE????? Oh yes, I remember!!! In a box with the veils!!! and the maniples!!! and lots more besides……..

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  18. esiul says:

    Dear Fr. Z.
    Most interesting what you wrote, and very interesting comments.
    I am an EMHC and very careful to make sure the cleaning up is done right. I’ve seen some
    things done that I would never do. For instance I take the corporal outside and shake it out
    far into the grass. To me that is the same as shaking it into a sink which goes into the ground not the sewer. That sink just does not look pristine to me at all. If the corporal is folded correctly
    chances of any particles escaping are slim. Being an EMHC is an honor and a privilege, it is not a job.

    [I think you should do only what you are permitted to do and never step beyond those bounds.]

  19. JJBustamante says:

    Do the species have to be on the Corporal though? At my parish, both of our priests put the other ciboriums and cups on the side of the altar while only the main Ciborium and main Chalice are put on the corporal. It seemed odd to me.

    Also, during Papal Masses, not all of the hosts consecrated are on the Corporal. Most of them are being held by the priests or deacons who distribute it. I was curious about how that works.

    Are these cases covered anyway even though they aren’t right on top of the Corporal?

    Thanks for your blog, I love reading it.

  20. JJBustamante:
    Do the species have to be on the Corporal though?

    A review of my top entry recalls to mind my phrase “rule of thumb”. If by habit the priest forms a moral intention to consecrate what is on the corporal, these questions don’t come up. However, he certainly can choose to intend to consecrate bread or wine which are outside the corporal. But it is better to remain disciplined and consistent when it comes to these things.

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