ASK FATHER: “Getting rid” of Hosts

From a reader…


I am an instituted acolyte in a parish that does not properly understand the office. This past Holy Thursday, I served at Mass. My girlfriend and I arrived early to help the “liturgical director” in the sacristy. She asked if we would help her to consume the Blessed Sacrament so that the tabernacle would be empty for the Triduum. There were two ciboria in there! I knew this sounded very fishy, and I was able to deflect the issue and properly reserve the Blessed Sacrament elsewhere, as the rubrics demand.

I attempted to forget the issue, but it keeps nagging me, to the point where I wake up thinking about it. My girlfriend thinks it is the Holy Spirit. Should I relay this episode to the pastor?

On 16 January 1988, the ever-helpful Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a circular letter concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts. In this letter, regarding the observation of the the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we find this directive:

48. The tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. Hosts for the communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration. A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for communion the following day.

Following subsequent norms, the Blessed Sacrament, after the Mass on Holy Thursday, is to be reserved not in the normal tabernacle, but in another secure location, whence it is brought to the altar during the Good Friday liturgy.

One wonders (doesn’t one?) why anyone would wish to eliminate the Blessed Sacrament during the Triduum?

There may be situations in which “too many” hosts have been consecrated and there is a need to consume them reverently. These should be rare and should be marked by the utmost of reverence.  I have in mind the scene in The Cardinal when the Nazis were invading the Cardinal’s residence and they consumed, reverently, the Blessed Sacrament before the household was killed.

The pastor should be made aware of this situation.

One a pastor’s obligations is to see to reverence and respect due to the Blessed Sacrament.

If the pastor has an employee who does not show the Blessed Sacrament due reverence, he should know that.

Be careful about terminology!

As an instituted acolyte, a ministry has been conferred upon you, to serve, in a stable manner, as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.  This is not an ecclesiastical office.  It does not give a man who is thusly instituted any right to an ecclesiastical office.

Hosts are not “things” to be disposed of.

Bless your reverence.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I’m not sure the answer addresses the precise question. I always want to handle things of the Sacred Liturgy properly, so I would appreciate more treatment of this, Fr. Z.

    I am familiar with the rubric that the tabernacle should be competely empty at the start of the Holy Thursday Mass. The precise question I think that still needs more attention here is this: What should be done with reserved Hosts so that the tabernacle is empty at the Holy Thursday Mass?

    Should those already consecrated and reserved Hosts be reserved in still another location? If so, where? It would seem they should not be placed in the tabernacle at the temporary place of repose (at least not before the Mass begins). So, if they are to be reserved elsewhere this would require still another (a third) tabernacle and another place of repose.

    In order to fulfill the rubric that the tabernacle be completely empty is it wrong for an Ordinary minister to consume the reserved Hosts soon before the Holy Thursday Mass begins? I am unaware of any rubric that tells us where the already consecrated Hosts should be temporarily kept. My practice, in an attempt to observe the Holy Thursday rubric faithfully, has been to begin at Passion Sunday to try to use reserved Hosts so that the ciborium in the tabernacle is not overflowing. I distribute these reserved Hosts during the daily Masses of Holy Week, again to work down the amount in the tabernacle. Then early on Holy Thursday I personally consume what remains, but I leave a few Hosts for emergencies in the tabernacle. Then about an hour before the Holy Thursday Mass begins I consume the remaining Hosts, purify the ciborium, and then fill it with unconsecrated altar bread for consecration that evening. Thus, there is only a brief time when I truly have no Blessed Sacrament available. I wait late enough to do this on Holy Thursday such that even should an emergency call come in I could not possibly respond anyway because of my duty to say the Holy Thursday Mass at its published time.

    If I’m not following this rubric as I should or if there is a better way to make the tabernacle empty, I would sure like to know from my brother priests.

  2. Father P says:

    This is a situation where the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. If there are a minimal number of hosts and they can be reverently consumed I would do that. Usually, however, I have set up a place of reservation in a room in the rectory or parish office for the “old” Hosts and it is to this place that the Hosts are taken from the Good Friday liturgy. After the Easter Vigil these are brought to the Tabernacle and then distributed at the early Mass on Easter Sunday

  3. Father P says:

    Also, having some Hosts reserved somewhere provides a backup in case of a miscount on Holy Thursday and there is a need for more Hosts on Good Friday

  4. Giuseppe says:

    When I was an altar boy, our pastor removed the hosts prior to Holy Thursday Mass and placed them in a tabernacle in the rectory. Then before the Good Friday service, he put them in the tabernacle at the altar of repose as a backup in case they were needed. It seemed logical to me.

  5. Martin_B says:

    Obviously, the best solution would be, if there were no consecrated hosts left just before the mass of the last supper, but this might provide problems should the need for a viaticum arise.
    But the number of host left in the tabernacle should be as low as possible.
    These hosts should be transferred to another safe place like a “third” tabernacle in the church, a tabernacle in a church or chappel where there are no services during the triduum or even a safe in the sacristy or the rectory (which should be empty of all other items).
    In the latter case these host should be transferred to the altar of repose after the end of adoration on maundy thursday.
    But these “additional” host may not be used as a reserve for good friday for (to the best of my knowledge) holy communion on good friday may only be distributed with host that are consecrated on maundy thursday.

  6. Federico says:

    A very important reason to reserve the Blessed Sacrament that I did not see mentioned in other comments, is to provide for Viaticum. People approach death at inconvenient times, yet they still need the escort of Our Lord.


  7. Supertradmum says:

    IMHO, having the congregation take Communion by the hand has caused this problem of disrespect for God Himself. Once people were no longer fed by the priest, as little children in a humble position, loss of belief in God’s Presence became common.

    Years ago, when I was studying the Protestant Revolt in England, using rare books in the British Library (then called Museum) as I had a pass, I read the letters of the visitators to the abbeys and priories of England which were ruined by Henry. In one of the letters, the writers reported to Thomas Cromwell, in detail, how they had taken the Eucharist out of the tabernacles in Fountains Abbey, which was famous for its nine side altars, and forced the horses to trample on Christ. The hosts are not just bread, but Christ Truly. Again and again, He meets His Passion in the sacrilege against Holy Communion.

  8. Peregrinator says:

    One wonders (doesn’t one?) why anyone would wish to eliminate the Blessed Sacrament during the Triduum?

    Exactly. What if someone needs Viaticum? If there is no Sacrament reserved for the dying then the priest will have to celebrate Mass to confect It.

  9. William Tighe says:

    “In one of the letters, the writers reported to Thomas Cromwell, in detail, how they had taken the Eucharist out of the tabernacles in Fountains Abbey, which was famous for its nine side altars, and forced the horses to trample on Christ.”

    This surprises me, since for all his faults, sins, and crimes Henry VIII retained a strong and prescriptive belief in transubstantiation until his death, and right to the end authorized the trial and burning of those who denied it; and I do not think he would have left such a sacrilege unpunished had it come to his atrention. (Cromwell was, however, condemned and executed in 1540 on the charge of being a “sacramentary,” that is, one who denied any presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, other than a “symbolic” one.)

  10. Hans says:

    Similar to this, my pastor had us consume all the remaining hosts at the end of the Good Friday service, so that all would be consecrated afresh at the Easter Vigil. I hadn’t experienced this before; it’s his first Easter as a pastor and my second as a deacon, and my previous experience wouldn’t be edifying anyway. Am I correct in concluding that he (unintentionally, I have no doubt) transposed this ‘event’ from Holy Thusday to the Vigil, or did I miss the repetition in the instructions?

  11. Gerard Plourde says:

    “One wonders (doesn’t one?) why anyone would wish to eliminate the Blessed Sacrament during the Triduum”.

    The practice of removing the Blessed Sacrament from the church to a place of reservation goes back at least to the 1940’s (the oldest hand missal I possess is copyrighted 1949). It is also to be noted that in the missal from 1949 the rubrics state that only one Host was brought from the place of reservation and that only the priest received the Blessed Sacrament in the Mass of the Presanctified (although Viaticum was reserved in order to be available to the dying).

  12. Peregrinator says:

    Am I correct in concluding that he (unintentionally, I have no doubt) transposed this ‘event’ from Holy Thusday to the Vigil

    There should not be any consuming of remaining hosts … they are to be reserved in another place, but should still be reserved for Viaticum. If nothing is reserved for the dying, and someone is in need of Viaticum, then a priest will have to celebrate Mass to confect the Sacrament, even if it is Good Friday or the morning of Holy Saturday.

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