From a reader…
Today at mass, after the priest had completed the Eucharistic Prayer, and we had moved past the Agnus Dei, one of the EMHCs noticed that the Chalices and Ciboriums with unconsecrated hosts (those meant for distribution to those at Mass) had not been placed on the altar.
Instead they had been on a table to the back left of the priest who presumably had no idea they were there (he looked quite shocked when the EMHC went to move them to the altar). They then proceeded to distribute communion as normal with those hosts and chalices that had not been on the altar during the consecration.
My question is: were those hosts consecrated, being behind the priest, and not on the altar? Would it matter whether he knew they were there?
I abstained from receiving lest I receive what was passed off as, but not really, the Blessed Sacrament, but I wondered what I should do.
Also, now that the leftover unconsumed hosts have been placed in the Tabernacle, what do I do if I return to Mass at the same Church. With my knowledge, must I be wary of receiving those possibly unconsecrated hosts, being passed off as the Eucharist? Thank you for your response!
Priests are trained, or ought to be trained, to have the intention, at least the moral intention, to consecrate the elements that are placed on the corporal upon the altar. Priests have it drilled into them, and they drill it into themselves, that if it is on the corporal, it gets consecrated. They don’t have to have a specific immediately conscious intention about each and every single host. A general, or moral intention is adequate.
The practice of priests making a act of intention before they go out to celebrate Mass should be revived. I warmly urge every priest (and bishop) who reads this to learn the Formula of Intention and even to print it, frame it, and locate it near where you put on your vestments. There are other good prayers for the priest’s preparation to say Mass, but I think this is the most important and basic. The Formula can be found in every copy of the traditional Missale Romanum. I also found it in the Latin 2002 Missale Romanum. I don’t happen to have to hand an English volume, but I’ll bet a translation is in the appendix. Here is the text:
|Ego volo celebrare Missam, et conficere Corpus et Sanguinem Domini nostri Iesu Christi, iuxta ritum sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, ad laudem omnipotentis Dei totiusque Curiae triumphantis, ad utilitatem meam totiusque Curiae militantis, pro omnibus, qui se commendaverunt orationibus meis in genere et in specie, et pro felici statu sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae.||My purpose is to celebrate Mass and to confect the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the rite of the holy Roman Church to the praise of almighty God and all the Triumphant Church (in Heaven), for my good and the good of all the Church Militant (on Earth), and for all who have commended themselves to my prayers in general and in particular, and for the favorable state of the holy Roman Church.|
|Gaudium cum pace, emendationem vitae, spatium verae paenitentiae, gratiam et consolationem Sancti Spiritus, perseverantiam in bonis operibus, tribuat nobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus. Amen||May the almighty and merciful Lord grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, room for true repentance, the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works. Amen.|
Back to the specific question.
In my opinion, the priest did not validly consecrate the hosts in the ciboria that were left on the credence table.
It might have mattered should he have know about them, remaining on the credence table, but then he ought to have had them brought to the altar. In your description, you say that he was “quite shocked” when the ciboria were brought up, which indicates that he didn’t know of them and, therefore, didn’t intend to consecrated them. Hence, they were not consecrated.
It is possible that the priest then spoke the words of consecration over those hosts. However, even in the context of Mass that’s not good. A priest mustn’t consecrate one species apart from the other. What he should have done, in my opinion, is simply explain to the people that the ciboria were left on the table, they were not consecrated and there would not be enough consecrated Hosts for everyone. He should explain that, yes, they were at Mass because he had consecrated and consumed his Host and Blood from the chalice and that they had fulfilled their obligation and he his obligation to say Mass for the intention offered. Done. That could have been a learning experience for many.
However, there is such a mania today that everyone must always go to Communion at every Mass, that Father was psychologically driven to do something else.
If the priest did not consecrate those hosts, and they were distributed, he would have committed a grave sin. Please, Lord, I hope he didn’t do that. Furthermore, if he put unconsecrated hosts into the tabernacle then he would cause people – albeit unwittingly – to commit acts of idolatry were they to venerate them. Please, Lord, I hope he didn’t do that. And he would sin again, sacrilegiously, by leaving them there and – quod Deus avertat – distributing them at another Mass! If Father knows for sure which ciboria are in question, he should take steps to correct the situation.
In any event, it is better simply to explain what happened and learn from it than too do something imprudent and, potentially, scandalous.
For your part, I would refrain from receiving Communion for a few days, at least if you see that hosts from the tabernacle are being distributed. Also, you would not be out of line to contact the priest and ask him about what you saw. Be calm, respectful, factual, and listen carefully to his explanation.
Alas, I was never “officially” taught about the importance of general intentions vis a vis the sacraments. However, by God’s grace, I was staying with an old mentor along with a friend who was about to say his first Mass; we were having coffee and saying the Office (we jokingly called the practice “Coffice”) before the morning Mass (which my friend wanted to celebrate, so to be confident for his first Solemn Mass later) when after we finished praying, the new Father asked our mentor “I just realized something, [Our Seminary] never told me how to offer a Mass intention.” Our Mentor then gave us all the crucial lesson about what a general intention is, why it is important, and how to do it.
When I came to be ordained, I thus made general intentions to safeguard the validity of sacraments (even if in my humanity, I lapse in my attention at the moment), among them: Consecrate everything in my hands and on the Corporal and Offer the Mass for the arranged intention.
This has been a godsend, as for one reason or another, I quite often experience distracting, aggressive, and unwanted intrusive–and sometimes doubtful or even blasphemous–thoughts during the Consecration; The Enemy HATES the Eucharist and Priests! It is so heartening to be able to set down the chalice and know that despite the fury of the attack I endured, Christ is there nonetheless.
[It is not possible for a mere human being to imagine how much the Devil must hate priests. So great is their malice that they even overcome their agony at being in action in the sacred space of a church, at the altar, with the Blessed Sacrament.]
At my former parish, one day they ran out of Hosts during distribution of Holy Communion, so they quickly refilled the ciborium with unconsecrated altar bread from the sacristy to finish distributing. The priest, who was visiting, just assumed they were from the tabernacle and didn’t question it. When confronted about this afterwards, the staff merely said it didn’t matter so long as the laity hadn’t noticed.
[That’s appalling. They should have been instantly fired.]
As always, there is abuse and there is abuse. It is quite right to assume, from the shock of the priest if for no other reason, that they weren’t consecrated.
That they would have been distributed for Communion is, under such circumstances, horrifying.
As a matter of fact, that was once a mistake of myself together with other altar servers. It was a Mass with large attendance, so, other than the usual vessels, others were around at the Credence, all filled with hosts. We somehow overlooked them, confusing that we indeed bring empty vessels to the altar only at the Agnus Dei (for EMHCs, and also ordinary ministers of Holy Communion other than the main celebrant); but they were full.
As I said, there is abuse and there is abuse. The Mass itself was a possibly not quite legal penitential Palm Sunday Eve Mass which people attended so much because they apparently thought that this would quite satisfy as a replacement for the Easter Confession (our pastor did announce the Confession times, but also celebrated these masses because people wanted them). And though it was a well-attended Mass, the number of EMHCs may have been a bit too large. But the point is: still anyone was sane enough not to get the idea to give unconsecrated hosts to the people.
So we put those vessels quick-quick to the sacristy, emptied them, brought them to the altar in emptied state for the EMHCs, and they were filled from the one vessel that was there and from the Ciborium in the Tabernacle, which luckily was quite full. I think they still sufficed, barely.
However, what was planned in case they would not suffice, was breaking up the consecrated hosts that were there into two or three pieces. That’s how one can, in such a situation, make sure everyone who wants to Communicate and estimates himself allowed to Communicate can do so.
[Breaking Hosts only works in a pinch when there are not very large numbers of people to communicate.]
Is there no entry in the “de defectibus” about this?
It seems to me that, as it is prescribed in cases where the materials are defective, that there are cases where one can take both new bread and new wine (with water), and consacrate again. If this is one of them, or wise if it is allowed, I cannot tell, but it looks prima facie reasonable.
[I looked at De defectibus in writing this. However, keep in mind that De defectibus deals mainly with the validity of the consecrations, and what to do if validity in compromised or questionable. Here, there was no problem with the validity of the consecration of the priest’s Host and the chalice. So, upon consuming the Host and the Precious Blood, Mass had been validly celebrated. There is no need for anyone else to receive Communion if it is a matter of valid celebration of Mass.]
Without intending any unkindness or disrespect to them, the replies of the good people on this thread really sum up the problem of the Church in our age.
The confection of the Sacred Species, in all its aspects, and the distribution of Holy Communion, is the role of priests. That is what they are ordained for, that is what they answer their vocation to do.
It saddens me greatly to hear, again and again, that good pious lay people have to attend to the practicalities of these things because priests cannot be bothered, are too lazy, or feel that they have no time to attend to it in their busy “pastoral schedules”.
Of course you have time, Fathers, you exist for nothing higher than to offer Mass. Every sacrilege and abuse must be accounted for, and will be by those who have neglected their duties.
[Ehem. When I say Mass, I have altar boys bring things to the altar all the time. They bring ciboria, and wine and water. Yes, it is the priest’s role to see to the confection of the Sacred Species. But I don’t leave the altar to go and get my own wine and water. They are brought up at the right time. If they are not, however, I make sure to tell them to bring them.]
The rector of our seminary taught us about the general intention. He also included – and this story shows the wisdom of the rector in this matter – the intention to consecrate validly any currently unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle. This way, should anything like what the reader mentioned happen, the priest has also consecrated those previously unconsecrated hosts as well. Is it sad that the rector felt the need to teach us that? Yes. But am I glad he did? Yes.
Perhaps the reader who submitted the query may propose to the priest at the next Mass that there may be unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle and if the priest could please include their consecration in his intention.
This calls to memory one time I was offering Mass, and just as I was beginning the Eucharistic Prayer, I noticed no ciborium on the altar, yet I knew one had been prepared. I looked over and saw it on the credence table. I went over and got it, and placed it on the altar before continuing.
One way I help myself with things of this sort: I have a routine when I approach the altar. Perhaps it seems odd, and perhaps it is odd; but I try to do everything the same way, while at the altar, so that it is harder for something to be left out and not noticed. Also — I bring the ciborium to the altar myself (i.e., from the ushers who bring the gifts forward); and for Masses with extra ciborium, I keep an eye on them.
Per the English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal (page 1,484):
Formula of Intent
My intention is to celebrate Mass
and to consecrate the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ
according to the Rite of Holy Roman Church,
to the praise of almighty God
and all the Church triumphant,
for my good
and that of all the Church militant,
for all who have commended themselves to my prayers
in general and in particular,
and for the welfare of Holy Roman Church.
May the almighty and merciful Lord
grant us joy with peace,
amendment of life,
room for true repentance,
the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit
and perseverance in good works.
That’s what the credence table is there for, surely? To differentiate what is on the altar and what is not. Leaving aside the essential and inexhaustible topic over which so many in the Church display invincible ignorance and unbelief, namely the Real Presence, this highlights that the altar is not just another table. The altar is an edifice on which the Lamb of God is sacrificed, amidst prayer, smoke, silence, candle light, chant, sacred gestures and tears (inward and sometimes outward), all immediately above the mortal remains of a martyred hero.
Sorry, I forgot to include the voice of bells.
I have been to a Mass in which this happened, only no extra hosts were brought up, only the priest’s host was consecrated. The priest, after realizing what happened, explained to the congregation that he was sorry that no extra hosts were consecrated and that everyone in the pews could make a spiritual communion. The priest consumed his own host. Everyone survived.
Years ago, I was asked to sing as cantor on a Sunday in a hotel ballroom for a Catholic conference. A Bishop offered the Mass. From my cantor’s perspective, the faithful came forward to receive Communion, and I began the Communion hymn, but the clergy didn’t distribute Communion. I was very puzzle about what was going on.
After my singing several verses, the MC came over and stopped me, explaining the ciborium had been left on the credence table, and so those hosts were not consecrated (although Mass had been offered). After some consultation among the clergy, the Bishop proceeded to offer a second Mass with the ciborium on the altar– a very short, low Mass, but the whole thing–and then Holy Communion was administered to the congregation. As this wasn’t in a church, there was no reserved Sacrament available to distribute.
I was impressed that the Bishop said another Mass.
[That sounds familiar. I think I was there. In or near Washington DC?]
Would it have been going to far to stand up in the middle of Mass and say something, perhaps cutting through the sacristy to minimize distraction, depending on the construction of the church?
I would that better than sacrelidge and idolatry.
And there is the issue of deacons bringing consecrated hosts from the tabernacle to distribute to concelebrants … lots of things to fix and I don’t seen much happening to do that.