Mega-Masses and too many Hosts

2013 WYD

I’m on the record as being, at the very least, skeptical about big outdoor Masses where throngs of people are expected to receive Holy Communion (no matter who they are).   There are… problems that arise from these expectations.

One problem: Too many Hosts.  What to do?

One solution has been to send them to local churches for eventual distribution to the faithful.   I believe it was in Washington for a Mass with John Paul II that unconsumed sacred Hosts were sent off in, well, garbage bags.

In any event, in my messages today I received word of a situation following the Holy Father’s visit to South America.

Apparently, one religious house in Trujillo now has 100,000 consecrated Hosts from the Pope’s Mass that they are to distribute.

I seems that the actual attendance was just a little bit off from what was expected.

At one point you would think that someone, looking out at the much smaller than anticipated crowd, would have said, “Gee.  Maybe we should remove some of these ciboria?”

So.  Mega-Masses.  You decide.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Well, my “decision” is:

    At one point someone, looking out at the much smaller than anticipated crowd, should have said, “Gee. Maybe we should remove some of these ciboria.”

    With thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Hb says:

    There were thousands of extra consecrated hosts left over from the Papal Mass in Philadelphia. They were given to any parish that would take them. The hosts were in ciboria though – not in trash bags. That’s incredibly disturbing. Maybe the wisdom of mega-Mass/everyone gets Holy Communion needs to be reconsidered.

  3. Julia_Augusta says:

    Just say no to mega-Masses. They are public spectacles. Can you really concentrate and find silence surrounded by thousands of people?

  4. Jim Dorchak says:

    Yep it was all on the news here in Chile that no one was attending Masses held by the Holy Father Our Pope Francis while he was here in Chile. Here there is a saying; Pope Who?

  5. John UK says:

    Don’t get me started, Father!

    1) I understand that when JPII celebrated on Pontcanna Fields in Cardiff on his papal visit so many Hosts were over-consecrated that that they were gathered up and taken to a local bank vault whence they were taken to lacal churches, where they sufficed for a twelve-month.

    2) And what of con-celebration at ‘mega-Masses’? I have seen on more than one occasion (including at Masses in St.Peter’s square) where the concelebrating priests in the offertory processin, each clutching a ciborium to be consecrated, are still processing to their places ‘near’ the altar (and at St.Peter’s still emerging from the basilica) as the gifts on the altar were censed, the offertory prayers said, the Preface begun . . .
    What happenes to the priest’s intention to consecrate everything licit upon the corporal? Does it become “I intend to consecrate everything licit upon the corporal, and on the, and in the hands of my fellow concelebrants standing around me and walking in behind me and . . .”?

    3) And it oftimes seems that the distribution of Holy Communion prolonged, even as the Mass itself concludes.

    4) as for the manner of distributing the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, I will refrain from commenting…..

  6. HeatherPA says:

    This makes my heart sink, worrying about the Lord being subject to sacrilege because they didn’t use prudence or want to upset anyone over poor attendence?
    I truly hope that His Sacred Presence is not profaned because taking care of Him is too inconvenient.
    Garbage bags? Lord, please forgive us. We truly are not worthy of You.
    Why don’t they just use less Hosts at these huge Masses and break them in half to ensure this kind of situation doesn’t ever happen?

  7. bcstudent says:

    I think that there are certain evangelical benefits from having public mega-Masses. When roads are closed or stadiums are filled with practicing Catholics praying the Holy Mass it is a reminder to the secular world that the Church still exists, and that her offer of salvation and life with Christ still available to those who seek it. In that way, I support mega-Masses for the same reasons that I support Public Processions–they disrupt the mundane and bring the sacred into the secular world. However, mega-Masses should truly be extraordinary, and utmost reverence for the Holy Eucharist must be maintained. It is deeply saddening when one sees videos of people ‘passing’ the Eucharist down a line at some of these mega-Masses. Perhaps these mega-Masses would be a case where it would be prudent to keep minister Holy Communion only to the clerics and servers rather than the whole group of the faithful.

  8. Fr.JP says:

    When St JPII visited NZ in 1986 and a large outdoor Mass was held in Christchurch at the then Lancaster Park, a similar thing happened – too many hosts consecrated – but instead of distributing them to the parishes or even reserving them prior to that in the bishop’s private chapel, they burned them. They burned them all. ?

  9. Joy65 says:

    How very sad. This hurts my heart.

    Whether one or 1000 or more each deserves the Adoration and reverence of Our Lord.

    Praying that in the future this situation will be thought about ahead of time and addressed.

    God have mercy on us and on the whole world.

  10. David says:

    I am reminded of another Cardinal Ottaviani story (I have many). He once attended a Eucharistic Congress where giant crowds received Communion. His comment: “I can’t believe there are that many people in the state of grace at the same time.”

  11. Nathan says:

    Since the Novus Ordo is changeable, why wouldn’t a provision in the GIRM allowing Papal Masses to be celebrated without the distribution of Holy Communion be feasible? Wasn’t this problem of numbers one of the reasons that Holy Communion wasn’t distributed traditionally in the Solemn Papal Mass? Can’t the Faithful receive in their home parish, then go to the Papal Mass?

    In Christ,

  12. Titus says:

    Just say no to the distribution of Holy Communion to the congregation at such events.

    I will say, to the credit of those involved, that when I was at the Pope’s Easter morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square last year, the distribution of Holy Communion was attended by as much care and reverence as the circumstances allowed: only under one kind, by a priest, who was assisted by an acolyte and would administer only on the tongue.

    Still, it was not possible to receive kneeling (because father was outside the traffic barricade and the faithful were inside) and St. Peter’s Square was only perhaps a quarter full at that point (it rained in the middle of Mass, even on top of other factors influencing crowd size). All in all, ‘twould usually be better not to distribute under even those circumstances, one would think.

  13. frjim4321 says:

    The “sacristan” for a neighboring “parish picnic mass” was found to have several hundred consecrated host in her freezer that she was going to save for the following year. The diocese got wind of this and obtained the hosts; I don’t know what they did with them.

    I suppose if there were so many consecrated hosts that they could not be consumed I wonder if they could be dissolved such that the accidents of “bread” no longer existed?

  14. Mary Jane says:

    Uh yeah no. If the logistics of the location/seating/etc are such that communion can’t distributed with reverence, I say no.

  15. “At one point you would think that someone, looking out at the much smaller than anticipated crowd, would have said, ‘Gee. Maybe we should remove some of these ciboria?'”

    Well, if you ask me, you get enough bishops and priests in one place, and they never listen to their master of ceremonies when he tries to tell them these things.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  16. majuscule says:

    Why not stress a spiritual communion at the mega Masses?

    How many people even know what spiritual communion is? It would be a good educational opportunity!

  17. TonyO says:

    The whole idea of a mass with upwards of 40,000 (in some cases, upwards of 200,000) people is problematic in the extreme. At a certain point the distance, and the intervening space / people / obstacles / transpiring actions closer that are NOT the mass, make one doubt that one is even “at mass” any more. How many walls (or trees, or signs) in between, or how many miles of wires through which the sound and the video transmission pass through, before we say “you are not ‘present’ to the mass”?

    Moreover, the rock-star treatment of the pope (any pope, and I include JPII in this) surrounding these super-mega masses is dreadful. People should be at mass to adore Christ, not to adore the pope. The mass said by your lowly parochial vicar is Christ made present again; the mass said by the pope is Christ made present again; it’s the same action by the same priest, Jesus Christ.

    bestudent, I am all for having the pope lead a procession down Main Street, with 1,000,000 Catholics following him. Let the whole city come to a screeching halt because Christ is being adored – well and good. But a procession is not an integral re-presentation that has by universal decree a specific beginning, middle, and end, that must REMAIN cognizable as just that in order to remain the sign that belongs to its nature. A procession is an amorphous sort of thing that can be added to or subtracted from at will. It is similar to the difference between a working auto and a heap of parts, except only more so.

    Get rid of the cult-following of the popes, we already have a cult, that of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Let that be our cult.

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  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear David,

    in this case the Cardinal was too pessimistic. Being in the state of grace is no strange exception, but the normal state of affairs for a Catholic Christian outside problematic circumstances.

  20. Gabriel Syme says:

    Several people make good comments. I think:

    – hold public masses, but do not distribute communion
    – use the time saved by no communion to have benediction after mass instead
    – drop the modern “Rock Star Pope On Tour” image at the public masses
    – use the traditional liturgy
    – use traditional music with a proper choir

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