Of doilies, germs, and typographical symblos

From a reader…

Just when you have just about seen it all.

Went to mass in small town.

• All altar girls
• Processing the servers, choir, emhc’s, lectionary, etc.
• Alb and stole only for the priest (it was a hot day)

But then the purification of the fingers for the EMHC…

You can guess what is under the cloth…

sanitizer 01

sanitizer 02.png


The doily covering is cute in an old-lady sort of way.

Yah, okay.  Well… not much to see here, I think.

I admit that, a couple times, when I had a bad cold, I – as celebrant – used some of that sanitizer goo from a little bottle before distributing Communion.

This seems to respond to paranoia about germs. It’s tacky, but it isn’t a liturgical abuse. The liturgical abuse was the lack of proper vestments.

Before the priest vests for Mass, indeed before servers vest, they should wash their hands and recite the prayer:

Da, Domine, virtutem manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam immundam; ut sine pollutione mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.

Give strength to my hands, Lord, to wipe away every stain, so that without impurity of mind and body I may be able to serve you.

Perhaps with sanitizer, this could be modified to say:

Da Domine virtutem squirt manibus meis ad abstergendam omnem maculam et cimicem immundam, ut sine contagio mentis et corporis valeam tibi servire.

If the is the rubrical typographical symbol for making the sign of the Cross, what would indicate the pressing of the sanitizer squirt button? Perhaps !?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The doily covering is cute in an old-lady sort of way.

    A doily [to be uttered in a Lady Bracknell voice!]

    Unless my aging eyesight deceives me, the “doily” is a nicely worked ciborium cover, designed to envelope the vessel containing the Blessed Sacrament.
    One wonders what, if anything, is used for that purpose here.
    Before scrolling down I assumed it was concealing some trendy modern mini-tabernacle.
    O tempora, O mores! Eheu et ichabod

  2. Cincinnati Priest says:

    I really hate this modern paranoia about hand sanitizer.

    I have had countless little old ladies (and a few men), chastise me (the celebrant) because I am NOT using hand sanitizer during the Mass (not when I have a bad cold, just routinely).

    Telling them that I wash my hands thoroughly before Mass does not seem to appease them. Telling them that I won’t add anything to the ritual that is not in the Instruction — no dice. Telling them that I *already* wash my hands during the Mass — no luck there, either.

    I have also seen countless parishes institute the pseudo-ritual of EMHCs sanitizing before they receive the Blessed Sacrament, sometimes passing the bottle of sanitizer down the line. (Yes, I know the real solution here is to get rid of unnecessary ministers of Holy Communion, but in the meantime … ). Talk about distracting!

    If only our parishioners were even half as worried about the contagion of liturgical abuses or theological heresies as they are at the remote possibility of possibly coming into contact with a cold virus, the Church in America would be exploding with orthodoxy!

  3. Overuse of hand sanitizer will only lead to the emergence of resistant strains of germs. This world is permanently wounded by Original Sin, after all. As I have said, if people insist on this nonsense, it should be done in the sacristy or in some other suitable private area, not in full view of the congregation.

    The one that really annoyed me was the parish where a huge table in full view of the nave had at least half a dozen containers of hand sanitizer on it. Ick. We worship God, not hand sanitizer. Raising hand sanitizer to the level of the holy oils in the ambry is obnoxious.

  4. benedetta says:

    Why should we not also sanitize the inside as well? I’d put the little “tm” trademark thingy next to this Fr. Z slogan if only I knew how to computify it herein: “Go to confession!”, says Fr. Z frequently. Cleanse both the outside and inside, why should we not.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    While I am sympathetic to whoever at least thought the awful thing should be covered up, that seems so wrong to use a ciborium veil, which as someone else pointed out is definitely what it is.

    My parish, which does not have any ritual of sacred alcohol gel, practically never has EMHCs, and when there is one rarely for some unusual reason it is a seminarian or a parishioner above reproach.

  6. mamamagistra says:

    A priest friend who came through the Ordinariate (decidedly High Church) calls it “the Rite of Purification”.

  7. rcg says:

    This is the sort of post that keeps me coming back. Funny, meaningful, witty.

  8. Luvadoxi says:

    Ah yes. The Rite of Holy Hand Sanitizer. So Monty Python. It looks absolutely *ridiculous* as part of the liturgy. I’m not against hand sanitizer–just do it unobtrusively in the pew before coming up or in another room where no one can see you and mistake it for part of the Mass. Good grief. Do people just put their minds on a shelf before Mass? It’s like another pet peeve of mine–singing only the first two verses of the song about the Trinity–on Trinity Sunday. Does no one even notice????

  9. gloriamary says:


  10. APX says:

    I have the solution to the hand sanitizer problem…
    Behold, the Purity Communion Dispenser!
    Available in two ornate finishes, Silver Plastic and Gold Plastic.

    I once witnessed a host drop from a person’s tongue, slide off the paten onto the floor, where the priest quickly noticed, got down on his knees, and consumed it off the floor. I think we can mellow about the hand sanitizer.

  11. Martlet says:

    APX – That clip had me laughing so hard it made my dogs bark. And were people then helping themselves to a second one?

  12. Kate says:

    If the vestments were the issue here…would an altar with a disposable bottle of hand sanitizer placed on either end (always there, never removed, as permanent and strategically placed as candles), be an issue? The priest uses it, the emhc’s use it. The hand sanitizing has become ritualized at the Mass in this particular parish – does one say something to the bishop or no?

  13. Speravi says:

    Definitely looks like a ciborium veil; not sure if this the right interpretation of “cleanliness is next to godliness.”

  14. pmullane says:

    If there ever was an emblem of first world stupidity it is the cult of people a few steps away from hot soapy running clean water and a bar of soap feverishly applying hand gel. If the pope wanted an appropriate hobby horse to get on about waste tehn he could do worse than to tell these people to get a grip.

  15. Fr. D. says:

    It has become part of the ritual in many parishes. I have seen altar boys dispensing the sanitizer into the hands of the approaching Extraordinary Minister. Many of them turn toward the congregation to “wash” their hands and remind me (sorry!) of the seals I used to see flapping their flippers in a show at the zoo. I have even seen an ornate crystal dispenser near the tabernacle (where the purification cup used to be placed). The point is: it does not contribute significantly to good health or avoiding the transmission of germs. Several medical professionals have so indicated to me. We are not talking here about a nurse going from one hospital room to the other having bodily contact with patients! I wash my hands before Mass, why not those who assist as well? In addition, several people have told me that there is sometimes a residual taste on the Host! So they get in my line. I suppose in the widespread threat of some potentially deathly virus it might be appropriate. But in those instances we should be distributing only the Host and not the Precious Blood. Is this a concession by pastors and bishops to appear to be considerate and “with it”? It most often seems to me like an accretion to the Holy Mass that we can do without lest it become a permanent ritual.

  16. jltuttle says:

    The application of hand sanitizer seems to be the only thing that EMHC’s do with any religiosity. It’s rather depressing. There’s one EMHC at my parish that uses the communion rail as a coat rack. It becomes impossible for me to focus on the Mass once I see him do it. He also brings loads of junk from the dollar store for the kids to rummage through after Mass. I refuse to let my kids take anything lest they think that Mass is about cheap toys. It’s also grooming behavior. Really, when did priests become so cowardly that they cannot run their own parishes?

  17. Andrew says:

    … ut ope huius alchimiae, plebs tua, (hic matrona extraordinaria bullam premit) ab omni microbii noxia liberetur …

  18. pseudomodo says:

    You PEOPLE!!

    The church has done this for quite some time – the theology is all worked out! This is for EMHC couples.


  19. acricketchirps says:

    Martlet: I think the second tray would have contained little paper cups of juice.

  20. jhayes says:

    APX wrote: Behold, the Purity Communion Dispenser

    Here’s an article (with picture) showing that being used in a Catholic parish church


    However, it’s being used for parishioners entering the church to place an unconsecrated host in a bowl to be consecrated during Mass.

    I remember that procedure when visiting churches many years ago. As you entered the church you found a table with a bowl of wafers and a ciborium. If you were going to Communion, you put a wafer into the ciborium.

    I haven’t seen that for years. I’m surprised that anyone was still doing it in 2011 when that picture was taken.

    Is this still done anywhere?

  21. A.D. says:

    I’ve wanted to ask this for a while and now it seems to fit into the topic:
    Is it permissible for a religious priest saying Mass to wear the chasuble directly over the his habit without the alb?

  22. ocleirbj says:

    @jhayes, yes, at one of the parishes in our small Ontario city there will sometimes be a little table up near the front of the main aisle with hosts and ciborium as you describe. I didn’t know it was old-fashioned – it seems so practical.

  23. anniemw says:

    My family and I are on vacation and went to Mass this weekend at the local parish. It was celebrated by a visiting African priest – a wonderful, holy priest, from what I could see. Imagine my shock when at the preparation of the altar and the offerings he was presented with hand sanitizer and a towel!!! What immediately rang through my head was, “Lord wash away my viruses and cleanse me of my germs.” – !!! – God forgive me ~ but it really did disturb me greatly.

    Jhayes: during the academic year we attend Mass at the local college, which is celebrated in a non-denominational chapel, and those who wish to receive place a host in a bowl, which is then transferred into a ciborium for consecration. Annie

  24. JerrytheYTPer says:

    @Cincinnati Priest: “Yes, I know the real solution here is to get rid of unnecessary ministers of Holy Communion…”
    We could also get rid of the handshakes/touchiness of the Sign of Peace! Or we could do both! I just love seeing more EHMCs than altar servers!…*sarcasm*

  25. JerrytheYTPer says:

    @jhayes: Am I the only one who thinks that Communion dispenser looks like one of those glass warp pipes from Super Mario 3D World? It looks awful! I have encountered some liturgical abuse, but I have never seen the Eucharistic pipe before!

  26. iamlucky13 says:

    At one parish I used to attend, during the last H1N1 outbreak, the pastor asked everyone to cease receiving Communion on the tongue, for the sake of protecting everyone from H1N1 (which killed less than 1/10th as many people as the regular seasonal flu that season).

    I decided not to trouble him with thoughts of proximity of his fingers to my tongue when his mind (and mine) should properly be on Our Lord at that moment.

    To his credit, he didn’t actually refuse to give Communion on the tongue, he conducted the liturgy in a mostly orthodox manner (not perfect by any means, but better than most), I’ve yet to see any priest preach more consistently on sin than he did, and he offered confessions 6 times a week. He was just a serious germaphobe. I remember one of his homilies almost being derailed by a tangent about the evils of antibacterial handsoap due to its anticipated contribution to the breeding of resistant bacteria before he got back on topic.

    As for the Purell Rite, I’ve seen it in a few parishes. Most obnoxiously, at one relative’s parish, all 8-10 extraordinary ministers grab a squirt on their way up to the altar and parade across the front still rubbing their hands together during the Fraction Rite. It’s extremely distracting.

  27. jhayes says:

    iamlucky13 wrote As for the Purell Rite, I’ve seen it in a few parishes. Most obnoxiously, at one relative’s parish, all 8-10 extraordinary ministers grab a squirt on their way up to the altar and parade across the front still rubbing their hands together during the Fraction Rite. It’s extremely distracting.

    At the parish I usually attend, the Purell bottle has been on the credence table for the last 7 or 8 years (since the Archdiocese recommended it during a flu epidemic). The EMHCs use it when they come up to the altar and the celebrant walks over to the table if he wants to use it before he distributes Communion.

    I’ve never run into anyone who was troubled by it. If you don’t know what is happening it’s not obvious.

  28. jhayes says:

    AD wrote: I’ve wanted to ask this for a while and now it seems to fit into the topic:
    Is it permissible for a religious priest saying Mass to wear the chasuble directly over the his habit without the alb?

    I don’t know if it’s proper but, a couple of years ago, I attended a Mass in Florence (Italy) where the religious priest wore just a stole over his religious habit. At Communion, he stayed in place behind the altar and had the 20 or so of us there come up to the altar so he could reach across the altar to put the Host in our hand.

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