From a reader:

I have a guilty conscience regarding the irreverence towards the Blessed Sacrament.

I was alone during a middle of the night Holy Hour in our Adoration Chapel when I had a run in with a large and very aggressive spider. It scared the bejeebers out of me. I tried to kill it by stepping on it, but it was too fast for me at such an hour of the night.

At that point I completely forgot about the Blessed Sacrament, and went on a manhunt determined to kill this spider in the chapel.
Unfortunately it ran into the “sanctuary” part of the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is kept and only the priest is permitted to go into, so I had to give up my manhunt.  [arachnid hunt?]

I feel quite bad now that I think about it. Sometimes I forget that the Blessed Sacrament is more than just bread, and I didn’t show proper reverence to it. Do I need to confess this?

Large, fast aggressive spider.  What could go wrong?

No, given the circumstances and your intentions. I don’t think you have to confess this.

Italians think well of spiders and consider having one around is good luck.  In a Roman Catholic Chapel spiders might be given a break.  The real problems come about when one of them winds up in Father’s chalice during Mass.   I have written about that before.  But that’s Father’s problem, not yours.

That said, perhaps you could – next time … and there will be a next time because that spider and his friends are obviously after you – use a liturgical beretta.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I also had a spider visit during adoration a year or two ago, except it was repelling from the ceiling about a foot or two in front of my face. I thought surely this was a spider from heaven and proceeded to stand on this miraculous spider to see if it would take me back up. Alas, it seems that I was too heavy and not yet fit for heaven.

  2. acardnal says:

    Repelling bad. Rappelling good. Repellent even better.

  3. JohnE says:

    Well if it was repelling from heaven I’m glad I killed it.

  4. Paul Young says:

    I will never be tormented with this dilemma. Faced with a “large and very aggressive spider”, I would most likely drop dead on the spot, having added a few dozen years to my already lengthy stay in purgatory due to the words on my lips as I expired.

  5. tealady24 says:

    I once dropped a 2×4 on a large specimen in my basement years ago. Worked for me.

  6. mamajen says:

    Has anyone every seen a house centipede (Google at your own risk)? We had a massive one in the adoration chapel one time (my first time seeing one), and it was all I could do to maintain my composure. It was the most disturbing creepy crawly I had ever laid eyes on. To me a squished bug is even more disgusting than a live one, so I didn’t attempt to off it, but I kept my feet off the floor for the rest of that hour! The darn thing kept scurrying back and forth across the room as though to spite me.

  7. APX says:

    Earlier this summer during communion I knelt down only to find a centipede on the pew in front of me. After I got over the initial heeby-jeebies, I found myself distracted trying to subtly kill it, without causing a ruckus. No easy task during Latin Mass.

    I live in a basement suite so I have become well aquatinted with creepy crawlers, particularly big spiders and centipedes. Sadly I have a natural reaction to scream whenever I get surprised by something (or someone). I keep a can of Raid within reach at all times now.

  8. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I killed two house centipedes in my apartment yesterday. They run too fast for me but I can get ’em with a broom. Just squish them around. And then their legs keep wiggling, unattached. Horrible! I get quite a few of them (keeping in mind that one is way too many).

    Once I was kneeling for communion in a Methodist church (I was Methodist then) and there was a BIG spider on the floor right next to the kneeler. I blurted out, Wow, that’s a big goomer! I don’t think that was part of the liturgy.

  9. dominicop says:

    One of the funniest moments I have ever had in church was at the old St. Dominic Priory in St. Louis (then housed in the basement of Jesuit Hall). We didn’t have stalls but the chairs were arranged in choir. Spring cleaning had commenced that morning and as such all of the creepy-crawlies had been expelled from the organ. In the middle of the Vespers one of the cantors started dancing around. I was sitting in the second row on the opposite side but I could see him move, while singing, first to the right and then to the left. Eventually, still singing, he actually managed to hike up the hem of his habit and step backwards onto the chair behind him. At that point the venerable old Father Benedict Marie Ashley, who was also sitting in the front row but further down, stumbled over in front of the young cantor’s chair. He looked up at the brother, shook his head, and looked back down at the ground before stabbing a cockroach big enough to saddle with his can. The cockroach lived to skitter another day. The can-tip, unfortunately, did not.

  10. VexillaRegis says:


    Luckily there aren’t any of those giant spiders and centipedes here, but one time a mouse ran over the organ pedals when I made a pause in the playing. Had to have a trap placed under the bench… Other then that I’ve only encountered cats and dogs and minor spiders in church.

  11. VexillaRegis says:

    edit: Other than … Need new glasses( with built in spelling check).

  12. Dismas says:

    This is all too funny! Earlier this year, during spring, there would always be a few stink bugs flying around and dive bombing us during Adoration. Although distracting, I got a kick out of them. Their clutzy attempts at flight were somehow humbling and a great reminder. In the end, I suppose we’re all just bugs attracted to light.

  13. jbas says:

    Spiders are evil and cannot possibly be creatures of God, but some sort of demonic distortion of an earlier insect. That chapel should be rededicated after the presence of one of these. The brave gentleman in question should be given a medal for standing up to one.

  14. Mike says:

    I remember a while back, talking to our school chaplain outside our chapel. He was a fine priest, young, devout, very gentle. Suddenly, a mouse walked out in front of us. This priest of God took off one of his black loafers, and beat the mouse to death.
    Then he turned to me, and said, “They get into the sacristy, and chew on the vestments.”

    Talk about proper “ordo amoris”!

  15. lucy says:

    I’m glad that this post happened today rather than yesterday because I went to Holy Adoration last night and spent a good deal of time on the floor (our Adoration chapel is part of the old rectory now office, and it’s carpeted and small). I hope I forget about this post til next Tuesday night!

  16. disco says:

    I would imagine spiders make a much more formidable enemy when father is not armed with his maniple pin.

  17. Makemeaspark says:

    I had to chime in, as the founder of the SFTPS. Remember folks, spiders are our friends they eat the bad bugs. (Society For The Protection of Spiders)

    Sign me

  18. Our adoration chapel gets bats. Suffice to say that my intentions some nights are rather narrowly focused.

  19. Dismas says:

    @MakeMeASpark –

    I’m curious, where do you stand on the protection of House Centipedes? The House Centipede is an insectivore; it kills and eats other arthropods such as insects and arachnids.

  20. APX says:

    I live in a city with brown recluse spiders. Since they are very dangerous, and I can’t identify one spider from the next, they all get killed. If they want to eat bugs, they can do so outside.

  21. wmeyer says:

    APX, I thought you were in Canada?

  22. acardnal says:

    And let’s not forget the other adorable arachnid . . . the scorpion!

  23. wmeyer says:

    I confess I never had considered the scorpion adorable….

  24. pray4truth says:

    I recently had the experience of spotting a big(ish) spider running toward me via peripheral vision on the tile while in E.A. between 3 and 4 a.m. I automatically reacted by stepping on it… crushing one of God’s creatures right in front of Him. I felt a ‘little’ bad and still do, but it it all happened so fast and I just reacted. In retrospect, I figure there are more spiders and bugs where he came from… probably from one of the huge plants that are in the Eucharistic Adoration chapel surrounding Our Lord. :-\

  25. Spiders and bats are very good to have around, just not too close. As mentioned, they eat other bugs. Lots of them.

    If I ever meet an expert in spiders, I will ask whether it’s possible to create a spot in a room where spiders are likely to roost and happily spin their webs. If so, that would be my goal, to goad them, if that is the word, to make their homes over there, behind the reredos or that plant, where they can consume all the other bugs who come their way.

    If you think about it, this is what bats do; they don’t want to be where you are, any more than you want it; even if you aren’t shrieking. They want to be left alone.

  26. wmeyer says:

    Fr Martin Fox, if you ever visit Montreal, do visit the spider museum there.

    Is there any positive value in mosquitoes?

  27. APX says:

    I am. I was informed by my former co-workers that there are brown recluse spiders in Calgary. I wouldn’t b surprised if we acquired them via cross-border transport. We’re also the only Canadian city with black squirrels because some escaped from the zoo. I also lived in a city recently with rattle snakes in the coulees we’d have to run through in phys Ed. I don’t know how people survive way down south. I wouldn’t leave my house without a shot gun and a few cans of Raid.

  28. wmeyer says:

    APX, if you check online sources, you will find it’s very unlikely you have brown recluse spiders. They seem to be fans of heat and humidity, as well as Southern accents. ;)

    They also do not appear west of the Rockies, though I knew people in California who claim to have had them. When I did some research on the issue a few years ago, I learned that there are apparently some other spiders which are often mistaken for the brown recluse. A good thing, too, as the real ones give very nasty bites!

  29. Mike says:

    Last month or so The New Yorker had an article on genetic altering of a mosquito which carries some really nasty diseases. According to the article, there are 3000 species of mosquitos, and no, they don’t really have a crucial niche in eco-systems.

    Go figure, or, another mystery for the Book of Job.

  30. Elizabeth D says:

    Okay but be kind to bats insofar as practical. Bats are awesome. The last one that was in the Adoration Chapel when I was present was a beautiful Big Brown Bat. Some wanted to do away with it right in the presence of the One who made it and saw that it was good, but we were able to throw a jacket over it and carry it out. Meanwhile I kept glancing over at Our Lord and praying. I think Jesus may be entertained by the sight of His adorers trying to deal with critters.

  31. jilly4ski says:

    @ wmeyer, lol, I can assure you there is no redeeming value to the mosquito (though I suppose bats, frogs, and other insects,like them). I know since I come from the state where the mosquito is the state bird. And yes they can carry some nasty diseases, I think there has been a confirmed death from West Nile (aka the mosquito disease) this summer in Minnesota.

    We had the house centipede in our first apartment in New York, that was fun, unfortunately my husband does not kill spiders or centipedes (since he had to walk through ankle deep daddy long legs as a child) so that was my job. (He does kill all the moths for me, since I had one fly in my hair).

  32. Charles E Flynn says:

    On the subject of vestments being eaten:

    What Do Crickets Eat?, by Rick Steinau, exterminator.

    Part of the answer is silk, wool, and cotton. The rest of the answer is quite surprising.

  33. RichR says:

    I have Adoration late at night, and sometimes the lights attract creepy-crawlies. One time, I, too, had a big spider who got in the chapel, and he scooted up to the sanctuary, turned around, and (I swear) just sat and stared at me…..and I at it…..for half an hour. When the next person arrived to take over, the spider ran straight for me and I jerked myself off the floor, sat indian style in the pew, and got a funny look from the relief adorer.

    They are after you.

  34. mamajen says:

    They’re not common, but Brown Recluse spiders have been found occasionally here in upstate NY, so I guess it’s possible for them to be in Canada as well. We also, apparently, have black widows, though I have thankfully never seen either.

  35. Mary Jane says:

    Ugh…I hate bugs. I have seen two big ole hairy tarantulas this summer so far…grosssss! Have also seen a couple snakes…and some of the biggest grasshoppers EVER. Oh and lots of mosquitoes. Blech. I think the most disgusting bug I’ve ever seen though was a potato bug…google if you dare…it was behind my mom’s washing machine (I was about 8 at the time). Dad called us over to look at it, us kids oohed and ahhed (now I’d scream haha) and mom ran yelling into the house.

  36. Laura98 says:

    Working in an old Catholic school library for a few years (renovated or not), you will find your fair share of critters and creepy crawlies! So do curious kids, who tend to all scream like little girls! (Yes even 8th grade boys, bigger than me!) LOL!

    I have to add to whoever asked about “adorable” scorpions (I know you’re joking). They are anything BUT! If they get in my house and I see them – they will die! (Other critters usually just get shooed out, if possible). I’ve been stung twice and believe me, it doesn’t feel good.

    Didn’t C.S. Lewis say that a hell for humans could be combined with a heaven for mosquitoes? I would think that would be true for scorpions too! I know I’ve sent my share to wherever it is that they go…

  37. Maria says:

    What an interesting post.

    First of all, I am fascinated by the story of Father acquiring a spider in his chalice.
    Please tell me what had to be done. I cannot imagine how this was dealt with. [Follow the link, above, and you should eventually find your answer.]

    Secondly, my rule is, if I am able to bear holding a spider and the tickly sensation I get from this action, and so long as it is no bigger than say, a golf ball if its legs were stretched out straight, then it lives; I throw it out and its life gets spared. If it is as large as a golf ball with its legs drawn in, I might feel brave enough to catch it in a tumbler and place a card over the entrance until I have thrown it out. There is a lot of shouting and excitement during this exercise as hubby is scared of spiders and he has to run and open the door ready for me to evacuate the spider.
    They are very sensitive creatures – honestly and have a very delicate nervous system. After reading an article on them via a nature site I use, I have far more respect for them than I had before and know that they usually will try to run away rather than towards us, but I confess, I am very scared of the BIG ones in case they bite I suppose.

    The third point, is if you live in the UK, it is illegal to capture, trap, disturb or kill bats of any species and the minimum fine is 5,000 pounds. Luckily, they avoid us far more than we want to avoid them and they are harmless, although I know in other countries they can carry rabies.

    Please tell me Father waht happened with the Chalice.

  38. Suz. from Oklah. says:

    Here are some brown recluses directly from my house in the country: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1064042773921.9866.1611558750&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=3449909339094&set=a.1064042773921.9866.1611558750&type=3&theater
    I don’t know if you can see this photo of the glue trap full of spiders. These brown recluses have an upside down fiddle on the upper part of their backs in case you don’t know how to identify them, but it’s almost impossble to do so when they are alive, because you don’t want to be that close trying to inspect them when they can poison you. Plus, they’re very fast. We have scorpions, too, and found out that they are good because they eat brown recluses. And, we have killed 6 black widows this summer. I’m thinking of moving.

  39. WMeyer:

    If I ever get to Montreal again (I was there as a boy with my family), I hope to remember the spider museum. But I can’t say it will make my cut; Montreal is a beautiful city.

    As far as the goodness of mosquitos; as much as I detest them, I must advert to Scripture and tradition, and affirm the goodness of all creation, while allowing that much of that goodness is opaque to us.

  40. wmeyer says:

    Fr. Martin, they may have changed–I did some googling after I wrote my note and what I remember from about 18 years ago as a wonderful collection of spiders appears to have devolved into an “insectarium” with a target audience of school kids.

    On the other hand, a visit to the Auberge St. Gabriel, in old Montreal would more than repay your efforts. Fr. Z might wish to join you….

  41. HyacinthClare says:

    Stomped on a creature my mother called a “sewer roach” (LARGE) right next to the priest’s door to the confessional once, then I didn’t have a thing to pick it up. People would come out of confession, and see the crunched mess. I stopped watching because the reactions were so funny!

  42. tioedong says:

    Actually, it depends on the spiders in your area.
    In Africa, we didn’t kill one large, flat spider: They lived in the house and ate mosquitos. You would frequently see them sitting still for hours, then suddenly zip out for the kill.
    Here in the Philippines, again a few nasty ones in the woods but the ones in the house are welcome to eat the other bugs, if the house lizards don’t eat them first.
    But in the US, I would worry about a large spider would be a black widow or recluse/hobo spider with a painful and sometimes dangerous bite.
    As for bats: They can be rabid, especially those who are acting abnormal (e.g. nesting in an area with people). Leave them alone, and if they bite you, go to your doctor for rabies shots.

  43. kelleyb says:

    I believe hell is populated with spiders.
    I have killed my share of black widows, funnel and wolf spiders. But I allow, what I call, a common house spider to resides in a corner of my kitchen ceiling. I do routinely dust away the web. I tell each new inhabitant that if they cross the “line” they will die. If they stay up where they belong, I have not problem with them.
    This morning at Mass an unknown spider was rappelling two rows in front of me. Didn’t see the beast but the sun light caught the silk strand.

  44. Random Friar says:

    Quaeritur: How would one translate “Spiderman” into Latin? “Prodigiosus Homo-aranea?”

  45. Random Friar says:

    BTW, hummingbirds eat quite their worth in bugs as well. You can’t live off sugar water alone, in spite of your 8 year-old’s insistence.

  46. BarefootPilgrim says:

    ….funny – just as I was reading the post, a teeny-tiny spider descended on an invisible web and stopped right between my eyes and the words. I laughed out loud and helped him to the floor. God is so sweet!!!!

  47. mrsmontoya says:

    I confess I have spider-phobia. I managed to contain my hysteria while my girls were little, so they are sensible about the creatures. However they are on to me now and make a point of dealing with any intruders before I become aware, if they possibly can.

    The irony is the retreat center where I work, a dream location for employment otherwise, is in a wooded area. When I applied in the fall, the place looked like Mirkwood.

  48. Jael says:

    In the Orthodox Church, at least according to the parish in my town, they don’t allow killing anything in the church, including spiders. I think it’s a good pro-life rule.

  49. SueDe says:

    Well….. There once was a very large spider crawling down the confession line, people gasping but doing nothing letting it pass…. It came to me. I stepped on it and killed it! Lady next to me looked at me kind of shocked I guess, that I did that in Church.
    Bible says: “All things have their season….. A time to kill…. Ecclesiastes 3
    (It was that spider’s “time”)

  50. deliberatejoy says:

    (shudder shudder shudder) My back yard turns into the gateway to Mordor every summer. Gigantic Shelob-spawn everywhere, and yes, the more there are the more tomatoes we get, but STILL. When they spin webs across my back patio door and wave at me as I open the curtains in the morning, all I can do is haul the curtains shut as fast as possible and pray to St. Francis to rehome them. Quickly.

    I have never seen one in church. I hope I never do. I’m sure the angels would get a laugh of of seeing me screaming and flailing, but I’m also equally sure that Father wouldn’t…

  51. Kathleen10 says:

    John E. LOVE the comment. Too funny really.
    And I’m with you Elizabeth D. I’m a “batophile” myself. Now that bats are diminishing in the northeastern U.S., we see our mosquito and West Nile virus escalating accordingly. Bats are awesome little creatures. We had one in our house a few years ago and it flew right by me, making the softest little whir with it’s wings. Yes, it freaked me out. He was exactly like Dracula flying around in our living room. He had to be tested for rabies and so it didn’t end well for him, but I love bats of all kinds.
    Centipedes are the most disgusting insects in my book. The way they undulate their darn legs is just weird and I hate it. Yes you smack them and legs just fall off. It’s unsightly! They are enough to make me move out. If I ever had one on me I’m not sure if I could live in my skin anymore.
    Spiders are intelligent. I have come to realize this. Very intelligent for an insect. It SEES you. It SENSES you are a predator. It watches you, and makes military Maneuvers. But smart or not, it is tiny and we are big or have Raid and so it loses. I agree with one commenter who said whatever it is doing it can “do it outside”. Agreed. Spiders wouldn’t be so bad (and I LOVE Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach!) but they are fruitful and they multiply.

  52. Amandil says:

    After reading these kinds of posts, I feel a great need to check every visible square inch of the floor of my room. I can’t stand insects, bugs, spiders, etc. Thankfully it’s not so intense that I feel a need to remove all of the furniture and look under it.

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