QUAERITUR: Priest gives Host to woman holding a napkin.

From a reader:

Today I was at daily mass at a local parish. At communion, a lady came forward with a napkin and held it out to the priest who was distributing communion. He proceeded to place three or four (consecrated!) hosts on the napkin, and the lady put the napkin containing the hosts in her pocket. She went back to her seat to do who knows what with the hosts.

That is pretty bad.

The document Redemptionis Sacramentum speaks about sacred vessels.

117. Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, [!] therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.

A napkin is not going to crack or rust.   But particles will adhere to the fibers.  Furthermore, a Host is too easily broken or crushed that way.

This is entirely unacceptable.

Alert the pastor of the parish about what you saw.  If that was the pastor of the parish, then alert the local bishop about what you saw.  If the practice persists, send copies of your correspondence to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.

Since we are not in a Soviet Gulag or one of Pres. Obama’s future Reeducation Camps, we don’t yet need to smuggle Communion from the incarcerated priests around to fellow “patients”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I don’t want to think about the implications of this report.
    You do mention the possibility of someone doing St Tarsis job when he was nobbled and martyred protecting our Lord’sbody enroute to the imprisoned faithful.
    Without ever having been an extraordinary minister, I have however both seen them visiting the sick at homes and in hospital with a “pyx”,same as a visting priest uses , as far as I can see, if that’s right,a sorter ornamented ( cross/cruxifix/holy picture ? on lid)smallish circular metal box, itself kept in a above-minimalist cloth bag with a drawstring. kept safe on the person. Dignified above human everydayness, certainly.Someone could start making some diguised as something else for when the need arises.
    At weekday mass in the (multidenominational) chapel of the hospital, at some point after communion-or after the dismissmal, extraordinary ministers pixes were filled with some degree of ceremony which I couldn’t catch.
    Certainly not AT general communion.
    I know, Fr you are somewhat anti the overuse, or Ordinary use, of lay Extraordinary Ministers of communion s at mass, but Are there E&W rubrics alone on this, or the general church?

  2. marajoy says:

    Before bringing the bishop into this… Shouldn’t the person simply speak to the pastor about this? [Did you miss the part where I suggest that?] Maybe he is actually well-intentioned, but just has never heard of (for example) the proper norms for someone who wants to bring communion to the home bound, and wouldn’t mind being instructed. Give him a chance before smearing his name to the bishop!

  3. Imrahil says:

    Only… if I have someone home-bound who wishes to communicate, I tell the priest. And not during Mass, but in a phone-call to his secretary (ideal) or at least immediately before or after Mass in the sacristy (not so ideal, but more realistic). Then the priest comes himself (ideal) or sends an EMHC (not so ideal, but sometimes necessary). He does not give them to myself, unless I should happen to be an EMHC anyway (and then I’ll know what to do). Both priest and EMHC have their pyxes which are not filled during Mass, but when there is no Mass, by opening the Tabernacle (due genuflections, etc.)

    What I don’t particularly understand is not the napkin, but the receiving of Hosts to take them to somewhom else.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    A related issue is that many people do not have, or even know they are supposed to have, a burse to carry the pyx in. At my parish I never see anyone with a burse though many people are given the Blessed Sacrament to take away with them. I have seen a deacon bring Holy Communion to a homebound person (I was at the home) with the pyx apparently in his breviary case–and it was not apparent he even had the Blessed Sacrament with him until the end of his visit. I have seen a well intentioned lady who had the pyx in her purse go to the parish brunch and sit down to eat for a little while before (and she mentioned she felt not right about it) mentioning she had the Blessed Sacrament with her and was bringing Holy Communion to a sick friend. I don’t think the lady had probably been told anything about a burse, and really some training would have helped her to feel more comfortable about what to do. I really wonder how much training there is about this if even the deacon did not know to have the Blessed Sacrament on his person.

    I am really concerned at some parishes it may be that if anyone comes with a pyx or maybe even a napkin they will be given a Host to take with them. Definitely the situation where the Host is not in a pyx and likely to be crushed is serious and more certainly needs to be addressed.

  5. jmgazzoli says:

    @Elizabeth D
    I’ve never heard of putting a pyx in the burse. It is for holding the corporal.


  6. Jeannie_C says:

    It is a common practice in our Diocese as well as others I’ve lived in for the faithful to bring Communion to those who are unable, due to age or illness, to attend Mass. Depending on the priest in charge, the pyx are placed on the altar or brought up at the end of the Communion line, and the priest hands the filled pyx or then places the consecrated Host into the pyx, giving a blessing over the recipient. There is instruction prior to this for the proper handling and administering of Communion to the housebound, and if anyone does not have their own pyx they are to request the loan of one from the priest. In either case there is dialogue between the individual and the priest.

    I’m not sure what the main issue is with the situation the writer is concerned about? Is it the use of a napkin? Certainly not the proper vessel, but easily remedied – perhaps the author could purchase and donate a few pyx? Or is it the notion of someone bringing Holy Communion to others unable to attend Mass? When our daughter had major surgery recently it was comforting to know she could still receive. There is no difference between her parents bringing Christ to her as opposed to a layperson from the parish. Certainly would have been preferable to have had a Deacon or one of the Priests, but we only have so many of them to go around, and so many more wishing to receive.

    Whether the topic of criticism is EMHCs rather than Communion from a priest only, kneeling at a rail, Host being transported in a pyx to an incapacitated neighbour or family member, it all comes down to the shortage of priests. If each and every Catholic family seriously encouraged a vocation from within we wouldn’t have the aforementioned discussions.

  7. Volanges says:

    jmgazzoli, a pyx burse looks like a small change purse. It has a cord that you put around your neck so that the pyx is carried on your chest. Some are pictured here:

  8. JKnott says:

    I stopped attending daily Mass at a local parish after seeing the pastor place part of his own Host in his right hand pocket. I always sat on the side facing the right side of the priest, and always kept my eyes down, except when one time I was drawn by a very eerie feeling to look up at just that moment. Forgot about it and it happened again. Third time I deliberately watched and it happened again. A friend also noticed it and tells me it he still does it. It started right after he returned from a vacation in another state.
    To be clear, the priest does not put the Host in a pyx. He just quietly moves his hand, with part of the host and puts in under the vestment into his pocket. I felt that the way in which I came to see it was unusual (maybe my angel) and it bothered me to ignore it as it seemed a grave affront to the Lord. My spiritual director advised me to stop going there in the event that other hosts may not be consecrated properly and had me send a brief note to the Bishop with the observation. Nothing ever changed.

  9. Fr AJ says:

    A Pyx should be used here clearly, just terrible. I know of a parish in my Diocese that has a small basket lined with a cloth napkin in the Tabernacle used as a Ciborium. I suppose it’s a groovy symbol of the Eucharist being bread in a bread basket.


  10. MarkG says:

    Fr AJ
    I’ve photographed at weddings (new Mass, not a TLM) where the church used wicker baskets without any napkins in them. The priest put his host (which was very large like CD sized) on top of the basket and didn’t use a patent. The priest’s host was more like a cookie or cake material not bread, so I’m not sure it was even a valid Mass. He broke it into a bunch of pieces and gave some of them out as Communion to the people. Some of the people got hosts, but they were brown (which I’ve seen at a lot at other new Masses) so not sure if they were even valid bread.
    Most new churches serving the new Mass don’t actually have a tabernacle, or if older churches they have removed them.
    Even the Cathedral Church doesn’t have a tabernacle any more. It was removed several years ago. That may be why they are keeping Communion in purses and sitting around in various locations, as there isn’t a tabernacle to put them in.

  11. This is not to approve the practice described, especially putting the hosts in a pocket, but it is possible that the “napkin” was in fact a corporal and that this was a temporary expedient for taking communion to the sick. Obviously the proper vessel would be a pyx (and the small “burse” on a cord, although I don’t think that is required), but faced with neither no communion of the sick (perhaps seriously so) and use of a corporal, I think I would let the corporal pass until a pyx is acquired, and that as soon as possible. Those suggesting buying a pyx and donating it are on the right wavelength.

  12. Volanges says:

    MarkG, I’ve made altar bread with nothing but a 50/50 mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flours and water. It does look like a big cookie when it’s baked but it’s valid matter. It’s also easy to believe it’s bread and it’s tasty. The main problem is the crumbs that are produced when it’s broken and the need to consume all of it at one Mass or at least in one day because they go stale and dry. It’s also very chewy which is a problem for the older folk who’ve been taught never to ‘chew Jesus’.

    Some parishes use concelebration hosts for the priest’s host. Unlike the 2.5″ hosts we’ve been used to, these range from 5 to 10 inches in diameter and and can be broken into anywhere from 12-100 pieces depending on the configuration.

    When you buy hosts you can get white ones of various diameters and thicknesses (we use the thinnest ones for Communion for the sick) and whole wheat ones which are usually thicker than any of the white ones.

  13. Gail F says:

    MarkG: I’m pretty sure you have to have a tabernacle in a church, or it’s not a church. A lot of places moved the tabernacle to other chapels or rooms or weird spots that you have to know where they are to find, but they’re there.

  14. edm says:

    In a very wealthy nearby parish (they just completed a multi-million dollar remodeling of the church, to make it look like a really nice looking shopping mall), I was in attendance at a service of Benediction. The person who had invited me to the event was very active in the proceedings and I followed him into the sacristy to drop off some things and then be on our way. I had noticed that at the end of Benediction the entire monstrance had been carried away, rather than just the Blessed Sacrament in a luna. While in the sacristy I realized the reason for this unusual behavior. As it turns out the Host had been placed directly into the cavity of the monstrance…held in place by the fact that it was a too large a host shoved into a too small space and with the assistance of some good old fashioned scotch tape. The deacon was now trying to pry it out with a dinner knife.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I realize I do not know enough about pyxes. Turning to the Catholic Encyclopedia, I find Herbert Thurston writing in 1911, among other things, “In spite of synodal decrees it is to be feared that there were many churches both in medieval and later times which preserved no proper pyx for taking Viaticum to the sick. In these cases the custom seems to have prevailed, even if it was not officially tolerated, of carrying the Host wrapped in a corporal in a burse which was suspended round the priest’s neck or even of placing it between the leaves of a breviary.” And, “At the present day the pyx when carried secretly to the sick, as is the case in most Protestant and many Catholic countries, is generally carried in a burse or pyx-bag, i.e. a silken bag suspended round the priest’s neck within which the pyx is wrapped in a diminutive corporal used for that purpose.”

    When I think, not only of Corpus Christi processions, but of Tabernacles and lamps, I wonder if there has ever been any ceremonial related to transportation in a pyx when it is not secret – or is the use of a pyx in some sense by definition effectively secret?

  16. TimG says:

    @ Volanges
    I have never heard of the burse before (and I consider our priest very solid when it comes to the Eucharist.) Thanks for the info.

  17. JARay says:

    My own parish, here in Western Australia, has a supply of Pyxs and each is in its own little burse. One problem with that is that numbers of extra-ordinary ministers forget to bring it back. Then there is the problem of chasing after them to find out where the missing one is. I have taken the Blessed Sacrament to the sick over many years. I am an Instituted Acolyte. When one of my brothers was terminally ill I went over to England to be with him and I very quickly bought myself my own pyx. I saw some in a non-catholic shop and went in to take a look at them and then I discovered that their pyxs had a plastic lining. I rejected those because of that plastic and found a Catholic shop with real pyxs which are gold, as they should be. I bought one and as I remember, it cost me less than $50. Of course, I have it still and I also have my own burse as well.

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