What to do if the Host disappears?

Yesterday I was in conversation with friends about De defectibus. There is a section in the front of the older versions of the Missale Romanum indicating which defects might make Mass invalid or illicit and/or how to correct them, etc.

In one place, the priest is instructed about what to do if, by some rare circumstance, he might lose the Host after consecration but before he has the chance to consume it properly.

Remember: For there to be the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest must consume both the Host and the Precious Blood.

In the 1962 Missale Romanum we see (and thanks to my interlocutor for sending me snaps from the Missale):



What do we see here?

The priest is told what to do if the Host gets away from him either because wind blows it away (it happens), or it is snatched by some critter (it happens) and he can’t get it back.

That is in the 1962 version.

But what about earlier versions, such as pre-1955?


This version talks about if they Host disappears for any reason, such as wind or critter, or… if by a miracle!

Say, for example, the Host simply vanishes.  What to do?  What if it were to suddenly ascend into the air an hover where the priest couldn’t reach it?  What it it were to miraculously float across the church or chapel and present itself as Communion to some saintly person?

What’s a priest to do?

Well, Fathers.  If that happens while you are saying Mass, you are to consecrate another Holy beginning from the Qui pridie.  Simple.

Also, this underscores the importance of the integrity of that whole “unit” of texts and gestures leading up to the words of consecration.


I received a note with this:

Where the pre-1955 De defectibus leaves off, “facta ejus prius oblatione, ut supra.” The 1933 Dominican Missal continues:

“…ut supra; et illud animal, si capi potest, occidatur, et comburatur, et cineres ejiciantur in sacrarium, vel sub altari.”

That sounds exactly right. Some time ago I wrote (HERE)

Once you get the basic principles (just about everything winds up burned and going down the sacrarium), you can extrapolate all sorts of solutions to scenarios not covered in the Missal. At a very clerical supper one night we mused about the possibility of a mouse dashing across the altar after the consecration and making off with a Host. Our solution was to bless a cat, put a white stole on it, send it after the mouse, and when the cat came back, burn the cat and put the ashes down the sacrarium.

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  1. Clemens Romanus says:

    Should have kept this in the Missal of Paul VI. Great stuff!

  2. frjim4321 says:

    “Also, this underscores the importance of the integrity of that whole “unit” of texts and gestures leading up to the words of consecration.” – Our Benevolent Host

    That’s so true and is why I’m so quizzical about RS saying you just say the words of institution.

  3. steve51b31 says:

    While assisting at Holy Mass, we had the large host disappear from the paten at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer. We replaced it and Fr. started again. While kneeling during the Consecration, I saw that the first host was on the floor at the base of the altar covered by the large altar cloth. I retrieved it and placed it up the sleeve of my alb and then placed it at the credence table at the earliest opportunity, wrapped in a purificator.

  4. pelerin says:

    The ‘if by a miracle’ has reminded me of an unusual incident which was captured on French television and which can be seen on the internet. It was not a disappearing Host but a levitating one. The Mass was being celebrated by two Cardinals (both now dead) at Lourdes. At the Consecration the very large Host suddenly levitated and hovered above the paten. It can quite clearly be seen in the film. Was this the result of a sudden draught or was it a miracle? As far as I am aware neither Cardinal ever commented on this.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Great minds. Just got a question on this a couple of days ago. You saved me looking through a bunch of stuff. :)

  6. Wryman says:

    I was in a mass where a Host fell from the altar into the space beneath the altar, and the priest didn’t see it (it was not the large host but a small one). It made me wonder if someone attending a Mass where this happens is supposed to interrupt proceedings and quietly call that to the priest’s attention, or do it when you go up for communion, or what? In this case an EM had noticed it and retrieved it, but what’s the proper protocol for someone who sees this when the priest didn’t?

  7. pelerin says:

    Having been prompted to search again on the Lourdes Eucharistic ‘Miracle’ I find that details are given on the French Wikipedia site but none on the English language Wiki site.

    I don’t know how to link but details can be found by typing in ‘messe Lourdes miracle eucharistique.’ The relevant part of the film can also be seen there. The Mass was celebrated on 7th November 1999 and broadcast live but the Cardinals decided to keep silent. In 2007 Cardinal Poupard declared that it could be mentioned and a magazine article was subsequently written by a Priest.

  8. Father P says:

    This reminds me of a question a classmate asked in the seminary to our Liturgy prof. “Father, what should I do if saying Mass the Host starts to bled?”

    Without missing a beat the prof asked, “Well, first I need to know one thing from you. At what point in your priesthood do you expect to lose your faith in the Blessed Sacrament?”

    “Never, Father”

    “Then don’t worry about it. There has never been a case where a Eucharistic miracle is meant as a reward for perfect faith in the priest but as a indictment on a lack of it” and then he continued on with his lesson plan.

  9. Luvadoxi says:

    There’s a video of awkward wedding bloopers where the priest drops the Host down the front of the bride’s dress as she’s kneeling. He reaches in and retrieves it….oops.

  10. That Guy says:

    Our church uses “Eucharistic Guards” posted wherever the Hosts are distributed to ensure that every communicant consumes the Host, and to take care of any errant drops. I never considered the scenario of an errant pigeon stealing one though. Maybe the EGs need to be armed with skeet guns!

  11. plaf26 says:

    Reminds me of a story about a foreign priest saying Mass in an American parish. He “lost” the Host after the Consecration. When he noticed it, he asked the altar boy in his broken English, “Where is God?” The altar boy, well-schooled in the Baltimore Cathechism, replied, “God is everywhere!” The priest said, “No, I mean where is THIS God?” “Oh,” said the altar boy, “under the chalice, Father.”

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  12. papaefidelis says:

    So, in celebrating the Ordinary Form, should such an instance described occur, and the priest-celebrant is making use of the third Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions, should he simply revert to the Roman Canon and consider it a sign from the Almighty to only make use of the Roman Canon in Latin henceforth? If he were to ask for my thoughts, that’s what I would opine.

  13. jhayes says:

    If the Host disappeared after the Most Precious Blood had been consecrated, would the Priest also consecrate a new chalice of wine by continuing on “Simili modo….Hoc facite in meam commemorationem” on the principle that you are not supposed to consecrate one element without the other?

    [No. Just the Host. In a case like this, still within the Mass, you aren’t consecrating the Body apart from the Blood.]

  14. The Cobbler says:

    Should we infer anything from the disappearance of the reference to miracles in the ’62?

  15. Pingback: Is Catholicism About to Break Into Three? - Big Pulpit

  16. Legisperitus says:

    The Cobbler: Perhaps that Msgr. Bugnini didn’t believe in miracles?

  17. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    ME: Father, some Catholics don’t know we receive Christ in the Eucharist.
    HIM: We receive Christ in everyone we meet.
    ME: Well, yes, I know, but I meant, in a special way.
    HIM: Everyone is special.

  18. acardnal says:

    That video is fascinating, Dr. Peters!

  19. Manducat in the hat says:

    All this of course if the President of Poland isn’t there to lend a hand.


  20. mike cliffson says:

    “a mouse dashing across the altar after the consecration and making off with a Host. Our solution was to bless a cat, put a white stole on it, send it after the mouse, and when the cat came back, burn the cat and put the ashes down the sacrarium.”
    Is this vitual shroederlike cat the real reason for the side bar hamster’s disappearance? I smell a rat.


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  21. Hugh says:

    I was wrestling with the ethics of embryo adoption a few years back when somehow the nuptial dimension of the liturgy came to mind and I started thinking about this very case.

    It seemed to me that allowing embryo adoption (for, say, the laudable purpose of saving a frozen embryo from destruction) would be analogous to a priest remedying the loss of a host by, say, retrieving a previously consecrated host from the tabernacle and using that in its place.

    But Catholic bioethicists who oppose embryo adoption (the late Nick Tonti-Filippini, Mary Geach, etc) see it as of fundamental significance that, miracles excepted (ie Our Lord), a child is in the womb as a natural result of the marriage act between the spouses, and that embryo adoption, for all its worthy motives, attacks this significance.

    The missal rule cited here seems to line up, I would tentatively suggest, with this latter position. Analogous to the (natural, non-miraculous) advent of the child in utero solely via the marital act between the spouses, the Church seems to be understanding it as vitally important that the host used by the priest to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice originate from an act of consecration within that liturgy, not from outside.

    Of course, this may be pushing an analogy way too far. But if anyone has seen any discussion of this area recently I’d be grateful for any references.

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