ASK FATHER: “Glass goblet” for the Precious Blood

From a reader…

bernini_crocifissioneQUAERITUR:

On vacation I attended a mass where the precious blood was offered in a glass goblet, a man in a suit and tie (deacon?) gave the homily and the congregation stood after receiving (that bit shocked me). I’m a just nobody. Should I write to someone anyway? Do you have advice so that if I write it’ll be more likely to be read? BTW I think highly of the Bishop of this diocese.

Clearly there is some liturgical abuse going on here.

Even if the man who preached was a deacon, he should have been appropriately attired (alb, stole, and dalmatic if he was the deacon of the Mass; alb and stole or cassock, surplice, and stole if he was merely the preacher).

In addition, the Precious Blood deserves precious vessels, not glass goblets.

The question is a good one: “As a visitor, what are my responsibilities?”

One indeed has the right to object to serious liturgical abuse, but how to avoid having one’s legitimate complaints merely go into some circular file to be destroyed at some later date without having any effect?

Tough question.

Sometimes complaints against a priest have long-lasting effect. Other times complaints disappear. The cynical among us will probably point out that complaints, however frivolous, against a priest of patently orthodox repute tend to have longer life than complaints against their more heterodox confreres… right?… and attribute this disparity to the tenor of, if not the bishop himself, at least the staff with which he surrounds himself. The cynical are, in many cases, spot on correct.

Yet, this inquirer thinks highly of the bishop of this diocese. Perhaps he will listen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In a politely worded letter, simply point out the liturgical abuse as well as the great respect for His Excellency.  It might get a fair read.

Remember what Holy Church tells in Redemptionis Sacramentum 

6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

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26 Responses to ASK FATHER: “Glass goblet” for the Precious Blood

  1. iamlucky13 says:

    “and the congregation stood after receiving (that bit shocked me)”

    From what I’ve seen, this is quite common, so I’m not sure why you’re shocked about this part.

    The wording of the GIRM gets a little convoluted here because it bounces around. It says we should stand from “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…” until the end of Mass, and, “if appropriate, they may sit or kneel during the period of sacred silence after Communion.”

    However, it says specifically for the United States that we should kneel for the Consecration, and unless the bishop decides otherwise, also after the Agnus Dei.

    Because this is an instruction that regionally supersedes the instruction to stand, it suggests to me we should also kneel after Communion (as does my sense of reverence and humility), but the order of these instructions make posture after Communion in the US also seem to be dependent on that same decision of the bishop.

    If somebody can challenge me with a better interpretation or a clarification issued by the Vatican or USCCB, please do. In the meantime, it seems unfortunately clear as mud.

    The use of glass goblets, however, is shocking, because both common materials and materials which may break easily were explicitly called out as abuses and prohibited by Redemptionis Sacramentum (published by the Congregation for Divine Worship, at the request of Pope John Paul II). Basically, he’s ignoring a direct order from Rome.

    Redemptionis Sacramentum also labelled any of the sacred ministers not wearing sacred vestments an abuse.

  2. Federico says:

    The individual can file a report at http://liturgywatch.org

    Federico.

  3. Scott W. says:

    I imagine every bishop, no matter what end of the spectrum he’s on, routinely gets letters from laity telling him how he should be running his diocese, so it is important that if you write a letter in such a way that doesn’t have you coming off as being a crank. But bishops also are kept in the dark about plenty of things, so a well-written letter may be welcomed and something may even be done about it.

    So go into Joe Friday “Just the facts, ma’am.” mode. Omit anything about being shocked and don’t use the word “abuse”. Rather, describe the act in matter-of-fact detail being careful not to criticize the one doing the act. Don’t quote liturgical regulations. Rather, say something to the effect of “It is my understanding and experience that the chalice is supposed to be precious metal and not glass.”

  4. wised says:

    After my wife and I attended mass in a church in the “unnamed”diocese that shocked us with a number of abuses, I wrote and called the bishop. We received a call from the Diocean Director of Worship who was very apologetic. She(yes she) immediately knew what parish we had attended and told us that there had been much progress made with this parish, at least they were no longer using their own creed! Unfortunately, constant references to social activism,EMHCs blessing children, chewy chunks of brown bread used as the Body of Christ and the din of talking were still obviously a “work in progress”. Being aware but still allowing abuses seems curious. We pray for these catholics and any unsuspecting visitors who encounter this parish.

  5. The Masked Chicken says:

    Things could be worse. At least the Mass was valid, if illicit.

    What is a far worse liturgical abuse is what wised mentioned, above – chewy chunks of brown bread for the Host – that could render the Mass both invalid and illicit. In my chick days (in graduate school), unfortunately and in ignorance of the truth, I attended the campus ministry (not a diocesan parish) where the aforesaid chewy bread was used. I was so trusting. The bishop said Mass there, once a year, and they used the chewy bread, so I assumed he had signed off on it. Who was I to complain (and would it have done any good?). I left that ministry because they had cookies that kids sometimes took into the Mass area that were indistinguishable from the chewy bread and I would see large crumbs on the floor near the sanctuary and have no idea whether it was the Eucharist or a cookie part. Then, of course, they just vacuumed the carpet (the Mass room was totally carpeted) every Monday. It wasn’t until Inaestimabile Donum came out that the situation was clarified for me.

    To this day, I have no idea if I were attending valid Masses or if sacrilege of the Host were occurring. It was a mess.

    So, on a scale of 1 – 10, one has to pick and choose one’s battles. God knows if abuses are occurring and no one who perpetrates them will escape unscathed, unless they repent. By all means, tell the bishop, but the liturgical abuses mentioned by the reader rise to the level of a facepalm, not the level of shocking – the homily was given by someone ordained and the wine was real wine. I have seen much worse. While there is never an excuse for deliberate liturgical abuse, given the times, should one be surprised? Pity the poor ignorant pew-sitters of that parish who do not know that these are liturgical abuses. The reader was just a visitor, who doesn’t have to put up with this, daily.

    One reason they release source code of computer programs is because many eyes make for light work in finding bugs. A liturgical abuse is a kind of bug, or at least mis-execution, of a program. The more people who knew the source code (GIRM, GILH, etc.) the harder it would be for someone to plant a bug in the liturgy. I am in favor of everyone having a copy of the GIRM and there being study groups formed. That might help keep the abuses down. If one visitor notes an abuse to the bishop, something might get done; if the whole congregation knows something is an abuse and they are sincere in doing what the Church requires and not their own silly wills, then the bishop will have multiple reports and the situation will have a far greater chance of being tended to. The pastor is the pastor, but some pastors have to be saved from themselves, on occasion.

    The danger of meddling is always an issue, but many abuses happen in darkness, so the best preventative is to always keep a candle burning. In other words, Vatican II wanted more participation by the laity, but they weren’t supposed to be a stupid laity. Implicit in the call for greater lay involvement is also the call for greater preparation and study on the part of the laity. A well-informed laity is a well-prepared laity.

    The Chicken

  6. CradleRevert says:

    Glass chalices were once common at the parish that I grew up in (I had no clue that this was an abuse at the time). This has since been corrected by a subsequent priest.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    The “precious metal” vessel thing is a scam.

    Extremely poorly made items which do not wear well and are extremely overpriced.

    Whoever thinks a fine Waterford vessel is “less precious” than gold-colored metal vessels from a religious goods catalog is not dealing with reality. Or is getting a kickback.

  8. de_cupertino says:

    I was going to comment with a “me too” and “at least my parish only uses glass for the EMHC cups and not the priest’s chalice”, but Fr. Jim’s comment above gives me pause. I know what he means about over-priced and poorly made items that only look “fancy,” and now I can see the other perspective.

    The documents don’t actually use the word “glass” it seems, and it’s possible for glass to be quite sturdy. Look at architectural glass used in those modern temples of materialism: Apple stores. I still disagree with the glass, but perhaps we laity need to purchase better replacements before presuming to complain to the bishop.

    I have written my bishop, and I know of one case in which he personally disposed of glass chalices from a church he was visiting to say Mass (put them in his trunk!). However, the bishop is more interested in keeping his priests happy (if in fact they’re otherwise orthodox) than he is in keeping you or me the liturgical pedant happy — he knows we aren’t going anywhere.

  9. Joseph-Mary says:

    I have written to bishops of dioceses where I encountered serious liturgical abuse. Once, at my cousin’s parish, there was invalid matter for the Eucharist. I called the nice lady at the ‘baking ministry’ and got the recipe and sent it with a note to the bishop. I learned in a funny round about way that the practice would come to cease. 9 months after I wrote, I received a note from the bishop saying this never happened. But someone from that parish, in a conversation, told of how the priest made a joke of things and told them they had to behave from now on or something like that. I never mentioned that I had written about it nor did I tell my cousin who loved her priest very much as that would have upset her. But in other dioceses I have written with no response or an end to the abuse. I write respectfully and carefully. And that is all I can do: go to the superior and you have done your job.

  10. Scott W. says:

    The “precious metal” vessel thing is a scam.

    Extremely poorly made items which do not wear well and are extremely overpriced.

    Whoever thinks a fine Waterford vessel is “less precious” than gold-colored metal vessels from a religious goods catalog is not dealing with reality. Or is getting a kickback.

    This is a lot of cavilling and missing the point even for you. I’ll take that as tacitly conceding the central point of this entry.

  11. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    “Chewy chunks of brown bread for the Host.” There is nothing prima facie here indicating that the matter is “invalid.” Validity requires that the host be made of unadultered wheat and water. “Brown” would not imply invalid or even illicit: there is no prohibition of whole-wheat flour. As to “chewy,” this might indicate leaven (either yeast or — more likely — baking soda). Whether or not baking soda is leaven, I leave to the rubricians, but, even if it is, this leavening does not invalidate the sacrament (note the Eastern Rites). It would however make the matter “illicit.” But it would still be valid.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think hosts would be white (to symbolize purity), flat and unleavened (to remind us that the Mass is the New Passover), and easy to swallow (to avoid problematic fixations on mastication, particles stuck in teeth, etc.) . But the jump from “I didn’t like X at Mass” to “the Mass was invalid” is sadly getting to be a bit of a Traditonalist meme.

  12. iamlucky13 says:

    @ wised

    ” Unfortunately, constant references to social activism”

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Many parishes could use far more encouragement of social activism. However, I assume you’re referring to particular causes that are not compatible with Catholic teaching, rather than the corporal works of mercy.

    @ frjim4321

    “The “precious metal” vessel thing is a scam.

    Extremely poorly made items which do not wear well and are extremely overpriced.

    Whoever thinks a fine Waterford vessel is “less precious” than gold-colored metal vessels from a religious goods catalog is not dealing with reality. Or is getting a kickback.”

    The criteria is not “gold-colored.” It is “precious metal,” for which gold is presented as the benchmark or “gilded on the inside.”

    I’m inclined to agree that a high quality, genuine crystal chalice could meet the basic criteria as “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.” By the same token, the US is actually mentioned in the GIRM as having a specific allowance to use ebony wood for the patten, which is unbelievably hard and strong – it makes oak look like a softwood in comparison.

    However, until a bishop or conference actually decides to seek recognition from Rome that crystal satisfies both the “truly noble” and “does not break easily” requirements, I’m not in the least troubled by the requirement to use precious metals.

    A poorly made metal chalice from which a precious metal coating could flake off is definitely inappropriate, and implicitly forbidden in the GIRM.

    Also, really? The Vatican is getting a kickback from Autom Catholic Supply?

  13. benedetta says:

    I’d like to see more R.S. and less GIRM as it seems in retrospect that a lot that people angled for with the GIRM were things that were hatched as custom and desired by an elitist group to be spackled onto things under the heading of “local custom” when there was really never any groundswell or grassroots support for it, just plain old bad old clericalism.

    The other interesting thing we see in R.S. which is contrary to what a lot of places are still attempting which is pouring the Precious Blood into individual chalices after consecration in some kind of pitcher or flagon. I suppose with Yogi we can say with all of these matters that where you stand depends upon where you sit. It certainly does seem that the places who want to dilute the full power of the Real Presence and go with the symbol notion of 70s yore and still big in some places then crystal, pottery, standing in protest but not out of humility or reverence or awe, just another meal or picnic with grape juice and chewy piece of bread rules the day. People who don’t really consider that it is Christ whom they are touching don’t tend to consider the idea of receiving on the tongue whilst kneeling either.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    “Chewy chunks of brown bread for the Host.” There is nothing prima facie here indicating that the matter is “invalid.” Validity requires that the host be made of unadultered wheat and water. “Brown” would not imply invalid or even illicit: there is no prohibition of whole-wheat flour. As to “chewy,” this might indicate leaven (either yeast or — more likely — baking soda).

    Or it might simply indicate more dough used for each host. The hosts used for Communion at Fontgombault were bigger and thicker–at least quarter size in diameter and about double quarter size in thickness.

  15. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    The “precious metal” vessel thing is a scam.

    Extremely poorly made items which do not wear well and are extremely overpriced.

    Whoever thinks a fine Waterford vessel is “less precious” than gold-colored metal vessels from a religious goods catalog is not dealing with reality. Or is getting a kickback.

    You and I bumped heads on this before. I made a response refuting your assumption, and, as is the custom of close minded people, you never responded to defend your opinion but obviously didn’t change your mind.

    It is not merely a matter of beauty but of something that endures–beauty ever ancient and ever new.

    Glass breaks when dropped–it is by definition temporary. That is why watches often have a coating of sapphire on their crystals to prevent scratches. It is also why Apple has been looking for a sapphire supplier to produce iphone screens that resist breakage.

    Metal does not, and gold is preferred because it is proven in the furnace (cf Proverbs). That is why the same chalices have been handed down from one generation to another.

  16. frjim4321 & robtbrown,

    Let me suggest that the applicable liturgical law of the Church is so clear and unambiguous as to render irrelevant anyone’s personal opinions about comparative degrees of permanence and preciousness of gold, Waterford glass, and the like:

    Redemptionis Sacramentum 117: . . . . 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. . . . .

    After all, who among us does not understand the meaning and gravity of the term “reprobated” in Church law? What leeway does RS 117 leave for personal preference or opinion?

  17. Lutgardis says:

    iamlucky13 says:
    @ wised

    ” Unfortunately, constant references to social activism”

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Many parishes could use far more encouragement of social activism. However, I assume you’re referring to particular causes that are not compatible with Catholic teaching, rather than the corporal works of mercy.

    Or it might not be the appropriateness of the cause. It might be the emphasis on social action and the concomitant lack of focus on other matters. After a while the congregation might find themselves worshipping themselves and their efforts to do God’s work, rather than God Himself. Especially in the Mass itself.

    I know a parish whose Peace and Justice committee came in to speak during Mass and invited (strongly encouraged) all the Mass-goers to gather in the rectory after Mass to write letters to government officials about treating illegal immigrants fairly. Obviously this is a social action good Catholics could support, but there were never similar strong-arming drives to write letters about the right to life or opposing SSM or any of those sorts of issues.

    The following week, after Communion, the finished letters were processed solemnly down the center aisle in a basket while the congregation raised their hands to “bless” the letters.

    This is a parish that never holds Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction.

    Sometimes social activism is used in an attempt fill our restless hearts.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Chewy chunks of brown bread for the Host.” There is nothing prima facie here indicating that the matter is “invalid.” Validity requires that the host be made of unadultered wheat and water. “Brown” would not imply invalid or even illicit: there is no prohibition of whole-wheat flour. As to “chewy,” this might indicate leaven (either yeast or — more likely — baking soda).”

    I got a chance to look at the recipe for the chewy chunks I mentioned in my comment, above, and the recipe contained many ingredients other than wheat flour and water. I can’t speak to wised example.

    The Chicken

  19. robtbrown says:

    Henry Edwards,

    The text you quoted is fine, but my point is why the text takes the position it does.

  20. iamlucky13 says:

    “Or it might not be the appropriateness of the cause. It might be the emphasis on social action and the concomitant lack of focus on other matters. After a while the congregation might find themselves worshipping themselves and their efforts to do God’s work, rather than God Himself. Especially in the Mass itself.”

    Good point, and I have indeed seen parishes where the focus on social justice seems to have taken primacy over the relationship with God (and even when there is discussion of a relationship with God, it’s chummy to a degree that belies the wonder of it). I get a similar sense from reading what the LCWR puts out.

    However, with the lack of explanation of “social activism,” and a mirror trend I sometimes see where faithful Catholics focus so much on the liturgy and/or the prohibitive aspects of Catholic teaching that they neglect the call to work for charity and justice, it seemed worth interjecting my brief point there.

  21. benedetta says:

    iamlucky13, I think that is fair enough, your sentiment about social justice — certainly Fr. Z here on many occasions urges people who prefer the EF to also prefer acts of mercy. I have observed places that are big on programming for social justice and places that are less concerned with the trumpeted programming but rather on the integrity of the celebration of the sacraments — not only the liturgy but confessions and aspects of prayer life and spiritual formation. I think that after all is said and done that often enough the portrait of an EF congregation without lots of programs is painted in order to disparage faithful who prefer the EF, and it really is a false portrait because while EF adherents may not sign up for a great many activities, if one gets to know them individually on the level of friendship one typically finds that they just prefer to carry out works of mercy in a much more personal, individual, one to one and very low key way. They just don’t see why carrying out works of mercy in a program is a better way to go about things than the direct action approach. I myself have been very much edified by the humility that these believers show in not looking for accolades or credit even if that is rendered via bulletin or corporate activity. That it is not printed up somewhere or announced from pulpit does not mean that it is not happening.

    It is rather a parallel to the lots of activity and movement during Mass equals active participation, is it not? One has to sign right up and be on the committee or team or group to carry out this charitable work or that one otherwise, it is not happening, just as, if one isn’t serving as lector, greeting, EMHC-ing, ushering, handing things out, etc., then, one is just passively un-particifying. I suppose we go in for certain images nowadays and tend to believe that if we do not see something then it is not happening.

    No one really talks about it but it is something that has struck me so here goes — often times the corporate group or activity is not so much about service, justice, or mercy so much it is about “building community”. One can contemplate that if one is in the position of the person who is robbed and left to die by the side of the road, which would be better: to have a great committee swoop in and trumpet your victim status along on the way to the inn and with great commotion alert the innkeeper that they are here to help you, poor, fallen, shameful soul, or, someone who quietly attends to what little dignity remains hanging out of your pants after the awful catastrophe you have encountered. Do you have the wherewithal to hangout with a club of new found “friends” or do you just want to be taken to the inn to heal in peace? Is the “don’t forget to bring a can or box of a food good for the soup kitchen and leave it in the narthex” announcement and participation that much really more social justice and works of mercy for all time success or is the one that is carried out relatively quietly more meritorious? I really think, and I am no stranger to both forms of doing things, that for my money (?!) I would much rather have a parish with reliable sacraments faithfully celebrated, orthodox teaching and homily, music with little to no big programming via parish — not to say that people can’t point out things that need doing — than a place with lots of programming but horribly, abusively celebrated Mass with political activism constantly preached from all comers and from pulpit. It is obligatory for me to participate in the prayer and work of the Church; it is also obligatory that I carry out works of mercy. How I choose to do that is not a liturgy of the Church universal, therefore, the presence of everyone else in the parish while I do it is not a requirement. That I did in fact do that work of mercy is not something for public scorecard, it seems to me.

    I know that the above does not sit well with most in this era of electronic documenting and constant pr chatter from every quarter. People fear that people won’t look good. Hey it’s my two cents.

  22. The Cobbler says:

    What was it about blowing a trumpet when you give alms vs. not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing?

  23. Nan says:

    @frjim, robtbrown, a few years ago there was a chalice in my care. It came to me from the widow of a priest who left to get married in the 60s because I live near a seminary and she wanted it to go to a seminarian in need. I talked to someone the day after she said she’d give it to me and called her right back to tell her I knew of a seminarian from a country in which he would need to find everything a priest needs. The chalice is sterling silver and absolutely beautiful, handcrafted by a young silversmith. As part of my research, I spoke with one of his former students who said he had made a cross for the high altar of the Basilica of S.t Peter; the person telling me isn’t Catholic so I don’t know if he meant a cross or a crucifix. Another item is in the Victoria and Albert museum.

    The chalice is sterling silver, originally with a goldwash; however, the goldwash on the paten was badly scratched so I took them to the local Catholic store to be sent out for re-gilding. Unfortunately the gilding place can’t do a goldwash, which is 1/3 the thickness of gilding; the benefit is that the finish will likely last through the priests lifetime.

    So no, frjim, precious metals are not a scam. I had it appraised and it came back with a low value as the appraiser was unable to find a chalice from the same maker at auction. Only $12k.

  24. Scott W. says:

    A poster summing up social justice in the typical AmChurch:

    http://www.spurgeon.org/images/pyromaniac/TeamPyro/e-s_030.jpg

  25. Lutgardis says:

    iamlucky13 I do think it is important not to forget charity and justice, but I agree with benedetta that one can fulfill that call in private, personal, even unwitnessed ways.

    Also, without being rooted in the sacraments and a strong prayer life and relationship with God (and proper respect for the Mass), how can we even discern which calls to charity and justice are best for us to follow in the first place? How can we use the gift of Counsel properly without putting God first? Just because someone is filling up the bulletin with workshop announcements and calling people from the lectern to join committees, that doesn’t mean that these actions are good ones to take. And again, even if the actions are good ones, it makes me very uncomfortable to see God pushed to the side during Mass.

    The parish of an Episcopalian friend of mine collected a lot of school supplies a couple of years ago, which is good. Then they built an altar table with all of the packages of donated paper and celebrated their Sunday service on this altar, so that they could celebrate, too, front and center, all the good they had done for God’s people. These actions spring from good intentions, but ultimately are troubling. This congregation was Episcopalian, so they are going to do what they do in their services, but when I see similar inclinations leaking into Catholic parishes, it can be cause for concern.

  26. Volanges says:

    I’ve made bread for Communion in my parish. It was a mixture of whole wheat and white flour and water, ergo perfectly valid matter. The loaves rolled out and baked as thick scored rounds that, once consecrated would be broken into approx. 1/2″ square pieces. They were chewy. But they certainly met the requirements listed in GIRM