ASK FATHER: Calling the Host “bread”, the Precious Blood “wine”

From a reader…


Our liturgy folks tape little sticky notes on the floor where the army of EMHC are to stand at communion time at Mass.

There are red sticky notes with W1, W2, W3, etc. indicating “Wine” and yellow sticky notes indicating “Bread” (or maybe they mean “Body”, but somehow I doubt it). Should we sabotage their efforts by surreptitiously removing them? The constant referring to the Sacred Elements as bread and wine instead of the Body and Blood is frustrating.

Ah, liturgical choreography! Always an entertaining spectacle. When it’s done right, no one even notices it (nor should they), but when things go wrong and someone is standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be … sub optimal.

Before the advent of post-it notes, we had masking tape on the floor to mark positions. Before masking tape, I’m sure there were other directives. The intricate patterns of marble and granite in some of the great cathedral floors had as at least a secondary effect of providing positions for generations of altar boys, errant subdeacons, and confused clergy of every stripe.

Removing the post-its would probably lead to their replacement. Moving them to other spots on the floor (or the walls!) might lead to liturgical anarchy (¡hagan lio!). Replacing them with something better might be the most kind thing.  What that something might be, I have no idea.

One option is that they use their brains (aka The Personal Computer Almost Anyone Can Use).   I am reminded of a moment many years ago when I was reading some Latin with the famous Fr. Reginald Foster.  It was a hard passage with some vocabulary that (then) I was a little insecure about, so I had recourse to my dictionary.  “One of these days, Zuhlsdorf,” he growled at me, “you’ll get tired of looking that word up and you’ll LEARN IT.”

The labeling of EMHC spots as “bread” and “wine” is probably innocuous, even the Roman Canon, after the consecration refers to the Blessed Sacrament as “bread” (albeit “Holy Bread of eternal life”), but still it is symptomatic of disrespect for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, a minimizing of the sacred. It may be cumbersome to refer to someone who is distributing the Blessed Sacrament as “An Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion Distributing the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (and that may be difficult to write on a post-it note), but certainly we can come up with some short-hand that is more fitting than “W1.”

Also, let us remember that July is the month for fostering our devotion to the Most Precious Blood.  Perhaps the parish priest might benefit from a reminder about that.

Meanwhile, how about “Chalice 1?” “Chalice 2?” “Host 4?” “Host 17?” (BINGO!!!!)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    How about “(H)ost 1, 2, …” and “(C)halice 1, 2,…”?

  2. ray from mn says:

    How ’bout “Chalice” and “Ciborium”, numbered as needed.

  3. MGL says:

    A little bread and wine does no harm.

  4. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Is there a traditional standard vocabulary for a Bearer of a Chalice or Ciborium? Searching for ‘Calicifer’ turns up occultistic rubbish, exclusively, as far as I’ve (briefly!) tried – a word needing reclaiming? ‘Ciborifer’ did not turn up anything…? And ‘Oenifer’ and ‘Panifer’ seem to turn up surnames (!).

    Perhaps the Roman Canon form noted, and its companion, could yield ‘P.S.V.A.’ and ‘C.S.P.’ – with Roman numerals added as necessary?

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I don’t suppose ‘C.S.P.’ would leave anyone vainly awaiting the appearance of a member of the Congregatio Sancti Pauli…

  6. Fr. W says:

    I would go with Chalice and Ciborium. The problem with using “Body” and “Blood” is that the entire Christ is received either when receiving under the form of bread or the form of wine. “The species of Bread”, “The species of Wine”, “The Entire Christ under the form of Bread” and the “Entire Christ under the form of wine” are long phrases which might require the taping together of two or three post-it notes for each spot which some could argue could be contrary to the Second Vatican Council’s call for “noble simplicity”.

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    The liturgist calls them ‘bread ministers’ and ‘cup ministers’.

  8. jaykay says:

    Venerator Sti Lot: well, perhaps “oenifer” is a bit too much of a Latin/Greek combination? So, in the spirit of your brief search, I looked up (ok, Googled) “vinifer”. Nah, nothing, although the adjective “viniferous”, as in wine-producing” did come up. Also a Facebook entry for a person rejoicing in the name of Vinifer Patel. But really, “Chalice” and “Host” do seem to suit the particular situation admirably. They are brief, to the point, convey the meaning expressly and thus conform to the spirit of the Latin of the Roman Liturgy.

  9. Kent Wendler says:

    In case someone did not fully understand my suggestion above, I intended to get to the nub of the problem: unobtrusive floor markings intended for the EMHC’s: H1, H2,…C1,… “Chalice” and “Ciborium” are neither very unobtrusive nor unambiguous as single letter markers.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    One Latin dictionary I checked had the ‘Post-classical’ Greek loanword, ‘oenophorum’, meaning ‘wine-jug’… If Miss Patel, being unmarried, should wed the right man, she could be Vinifer Oenifer.

    “Chalice” and “Host” do indeed, seem to suit the particular situation admirably, and, if Kent Wendler’s abbreviations were adopted, they would in fact be bilingual (at least), compassing ‘Calix’ and ‘Hostia’ as well.

  11. frjim4321 says:

    We simply use numbers. The presider is always “0,” (host) and then EM1, EM2 and EM 3 are host. EM4 and EM5 are cups. There are numbers on the floor to show the EM’s where to line up for their own communion and similar labels at their communion stations.

    I know somebody will ask, “Why is the presider zero and not 1?” It just seems easier. You know that you always have a presider, and the presider is not an EM so why would he have number?

    Also, we have not problem simply saying this is the station for the Body of Christ and this is the station for the Blood of Christ.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    My parish uses the terms “host front”, “cup center”, etc.

  13. RichR says:

    How about they revisit the term “Altar rail” and make this whole awkward phenomenon of EMHCs be readily shown for the disordered clericalization of the laity that it is.

  14. WYMiriam says:

    I wonder how many of the sticky notes would simply disappear (as in, not be needed any more) if we were to stick to having extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion administer Holy Communion ONLY in extraordinary circumstances?

    This comes from someone who belongs to a parish where the average Sunday Mass — there’s only one — has between 40 and 50 people, with the Saturday late afternoon Mass having not many more, but where there are always two EMoHCs distributing the Precious Blood. What on earth does “extraordinary” mean, anyway?

    Would that the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass were offered as often as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are used!*

    *(yes, I know the difference in meaning here. How many little-c-Catholics know it?)

  15. WYMiriam says:

    Rich R — hear! hear!! Great point!

  16. I suppose they could compromise and use “C1,” “C2, etc. which could mean “cup” to the irreverent and “chalice” to the reverent. I’m not sure how to handle “host” and “bread.” I actually like Fr. Z’s suggestion that a well-designed floor can give subtle cues without any specific markings.

  17. JimP says:

    How about making Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion truly extraordinary by following the guidelines in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal?

  18. frjim4321 says:

    “How about making Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion truly extraordinary by following the guidelines in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal?” – Jim

    Because the length of time required for the communion procession would be way out of proportion to other parts of the mass that are of equal or greater importance.

    We have 5 EM’s plus me for the procession and it runs about 8 minutes which is long enough.

    Yes, of course I know that time is relative and it’s a very important part of the mass and a very important part of the week. That being said when one part of the mass overshadows other part with respect to running time it tends to undermine the assembly’s perception of the whole.

  19. Sword40 says:

    How about we just go to the TLM. Then we don’t have to worry about it.

  20. Father K says:

    ‘We simply use numbers.’ We simply use common sense. I have never heard of looking at the floor for directions.

  21. Alice says:

    I’m trying to figure out why this is necessary. I’ve never been to a church where it was complicated. At every parish I’ve ever attended it’s been, pretty obvious where the EMHCs are supposed to stand and Father just hands the chalice or ciborium to the EMHC and points to the position they should take.

    Scratch that, I did once attend a Mass where about 25% of the congregation seemed to be EMHC and half the Communion rite was spent directing them to the correct place to stand. Maybe letters and numbers would have helped. I couldn’t figure out what the point was and decided to chalk it up to cultural differences between orderly Midwest German/Irish Catholicism and East Coast inner city Italian Catholicism.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    Father K says:
    5 July 2016 at 10:37 PM
    ‘We simply use numbers.’ We simply use common sense. I have never heard of looking at the floor for directions.

    Try any play or live television show you’ve ever seen.

    The communion rite here is very well done, reverent and smooth, because everyone knows where they are and where they are going; they aren’t tripping over each other like the EM’s do at most places.

    If you haven’t seen it, you have no business criticizing it.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    After encountering the ‘Calicifer’-nappers, I have just learned that a former Marvel employee has developed a new ‘superhero’ called Chalice – a chap who dresses like a woman, with Latin cross painted on the left side of his face. Any likely Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, and/or Dan Brown influence, I wonder, or older esoteric/occultistic roots?

  24. Adam Welp says:

    When I needed to mark the places where the Extraordinary Ministers should stand, I took a note from my theater training. I made simple small crosses out of white gaffers tape and placed them on the floor. When they start to become dirty or look less than white, I simply replace them with another gaffers tape cross. They leave less residue on the floor than anything we have used in the past.

  25. seattle_cdn says:

    We call them (P)aten and (C)up. There’s a diagram in the back…nothing on the floor

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