ASK FATHER: Our bishop refuses to consecrate sacred vessels. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

From a reader…


My parish has recently been gifted a beautiful new set of Sacred Vessels for use at Holy Mass. We have asked the bishop to bless them when he’s next due to come here for Confirmations but he flat out refuses claiming that it’s not necessary to bless them. Our priest thus tried asking for delegated authority to bless them himself but that was also refused. Is there anything we or our priest can do in this situation to get the vessels blessed so they can be used?

This is a serious problem that highlights many problems in the Church today, including loss of the sense of the sacred and blindness about the spiritual warfare constantly waged by the “prince of this world” against the Church as a whole and against individuals.

First, about that bishop…

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9-10)

What a crummy, stingy thing to do to this priest and those people.

Any bishop worth the chrism they put on him should be delighted to perform exactly the sort of thing for which he was consecrated in the first place. Bishops and priests don’t exist to “committee-fy” but to sanctify. They should be first and foremost involved in the transcendent before the immanent. But these are days in which most priests and bishops ignore transcendence and are mesmerized by immanence, which is the hallmark of Modernism: reduction of the supernatural to the natural… even in terms of priestly vocation.

It is said these days that simply by using a chalice and paten for Mass is sufficient. Once used, they are “consecrated”. I disagree. There is a traditional rite for consecration, so there is a distinction between what the chalice is before consecration and after consecration.  Even the Novus Ordo Pontificale Romanum has a rite for the blessing (not consecration) of a chalice and paten. It suffers from the mania of doing everything during Mass or at least turning everything into an interminable Scripture service, but at least there is a rite that blesses. If there is a rite, there is a distinction, even in the Novus Ordo.

If a chalice is used before consecration we might say that it is “sanctified” in a vague sense by its contact with the Most Precious Thing in the Cosmos, but it isn’t consecrated.

Note well.  In the traditional Pontificale (and appendix of the Missale Romanum) the rite is called “consecration”.  There are three levels of rendering the chalice a fit vessel for the Most Sacred (Eucharistic Species).  The bishop (not a priest), first, in the manner of more important blessing and consecration rites, removes the vessels from the realm of the immanent and mundane and transfers them into the realm of the transcendent and sacred.  Then they receive the consecration.   Similarly, people are exorcised before being baptized, salt and water are exorcised before being blessed, the priest says a purification prayer before praying to God to help him read the Gospel in a worthy manner.

This is the way.

Just as the Confiteor has three words which sound the same in English but are different ways of saying “forgive” (Indulgéntiam, + absolutionem et remissiónem…) imply the logical phases of reconciliation, so to the three words for blessing (benedictio, sanctificatio, consacratio) rather their own subtleties.   And that makes perfect sense, given that the prayers of consecration of a chalice and paten go back to the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae (“Book of Sacraments of the Church of Rome”), which was compiled in the 8th century and surely has elements that go way back before that time.  That means that they were already the traditional prayers before that Sacramentary was assembled.

It is in the spirit of Romanitas that there are multiple words, each with a slightly different meaning, when performing the most important actions. This practice surely goes back to pagan Roman prayers and the contractual relationship of the people with the gods in a Pax deorum, in a do ut des agreement. This style of Latin prayer was ported over, quite properly, by the Latin speakers. It was not “vernacular”, the style of everyday language in the streets, but rather a highly stylized language with juridical, military, philosophical terminology and rhetorical shape.

For now, however let’s get a feeling for the traditional rite of consecration of a paten and chalice through a translation.  This is a rough and fast rendering of the Latin, which I may touch up later.  I want to get this posted before I forget why I am writing it.  Rubrics paraphrased.

The bishop wearing the miter:

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made Heaven and Earth.

Let us pray, dear brethren, that the blessing of divine grace will consecrate and sanctify this paten, for the purpose of breaking on it the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured the Passion of the Cross for salvation of us all.

Miter off:

V. The Lord by with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Almighty, eternal God, who are the institutor of legal sacrifices, and who among them commanded sprinkled bread of fine flour to be borne to Your altar on plates of gold and silver, deign to ble+ss, sanct+ify + and conse+crate this paten, unto the administration of the Eucharist of Jesus Christ Your Son, who for our salvation and of all people chose to be raised upon the beam of the Cross as a sacrifice to You, God the Father, and who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.  R. Amen.

The bishop puts on his miter and makes the sign of the Cross on the surface of the paten with Sacred Chrism and then covers the whole surface with Chrism.

Keeping the miter on he starts in on the chalice:

Let us prayer, dearest brethren, that our God and Lord will by the inbreathing of heavenly grace sanctify the Chalice unto the use of His ministry that is to be consecrated; and that He make it suitable for the human consecratory fulness of divine favor.  Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

Miter off

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.
Deign, O Lord our God, to ble+ss this chalice, shaped by the pious devotion of service unto the use of Your ministry, and pour down by that sancti+fication, by which you poured forth the sanctified chalice of Your servant Melchizedek, and which by art and the nature of metal could not make worthy of Your altars, cause to be (fiat) sanctified by Your bene+diction.  Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

Putting on the miter, he makes the Cross with the Chrism inside the cup from lip to lip and then anoints the entire inside saying:

Deign to conse+crate and sanct+ify, O Lord God, this chalice through this anointing and our bless+ing in Christ Jesus Our Lord: who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.  R. Amen.

Putting off the miter he says over the paten and chalice:

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.

Almighty, eternal God, we beg, by our hands infuse the power of Your blessing: so that by our bene+diction these vessels and patens be sanctified, and that by the grace of the Holy Spirit they be rendered the new Tomb of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the same Jesus Christ Your Son who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.  R. Amen.

They are sprinkled with Holy Water and cleansed with bread which will be burned or put down the sacrarium (because it has Chrism in it).

Look, dear friends, at that last prayer.  That “our hands” speaks to the human element of mediation.  What is the “end” of this consecration?  That the vessels – and the paten is also a vessel – become the NOVUM SEPULCRUM…NEW TOMB.   This underscores that they are used for a sacrifice, after which a victim is dead.  When lately I had my chalice consecrated with this older, traditional rite, that phrase hit me like a baseball bat.

But the bishop in the sender’s question didn’t want to do even the Novus Ordo blessing.  Just use them.

The Novus Ordo rite for the blessing of a chalice and paten outside of Mass has readings, prayers of the faithful (no, really!), a kind of presentation of the gifts (which is how it they are brought to the priest as in Mass), the Our Father, final prayer.  Get it?

But let’s pull the business part of the thing out and see what’s there… or rather, what isn’t there.

Again, my fast translation because I don’t have the English text.

The priest (I suppose a bishop, too), says (and the Latin is as tortured as the English rendering):

Look, Father, on your children,
who, joyful, have brought this chalice and paten to the altar:
Let (fiant) these vessels, which by the will of your harmonious people are destined
for the purpose of celebrating the sacrifice of the new covenant,
become holy by Your bless+ing.
And may we, who, offering sacred things renew Your mysteries (sacramentis) on earth, be imbued with the divine Spirit
until together with the Saints we enjoy Your banquet in the kingdom of Heaven.

Yup.  That’s it.

The Latin is as tortured as the English rendering.

Another thing.  Note in the traditional consecration the prevalence and role of the Sacred Chrism.   This is a connecting feature in the Roman Rite.    The churches walls are anointed with Chrism in special places representing the whole.   The whole surface of an altar when it is consecrated is covered with Chrism.  The paten and chalice where the Eucharist has contact is entirely anointed with Chrism.

The priest’s hands are anointed, because they touch the Eucharist.  They have to be rendered worthy to handle that which is the Most Sacred. In the traditional Roman Rite the one to be ordained is called a consecrandus, a man to be consecrated.  His hands are anointed not with Chrism but rather with the Oil of the Catechumens which is the Oil used in the exorcism parts of the Rite of Baptism.  The bishop says:

“Consecrare, et sanctificare digneris, Domine, manus istas per istam unctionem, et nostram bene+dictionem. R. Amen. … Deign, Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands through this anointing and our bless+ing.   Amen.”

See the similarity?

Why might the Oil of the Catechumens be used?  Because it is a purifying agent.   Just as sinful Isaiah’s mouth was purified by an angel-borne burning coal before God gave him the prophetic office, so too the priest’s hands must be purified.   While the paten and the chalice will not ever be touched again in any significant way by the mundane, the hands of the priest will constantly be in contact with the secular.

The bishop goes on:

Ut quaecumque benedixerint benedicantur, et quaecumque consecraverint consecrentur, et sanctificentur, in nomine Domini nostri Iesu Christi.  … So that whatever they will have blessed will be blessed, whatever they will have consecrated will be consecrated and whatever they will have sanctified will be sanctified, in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

After this the priest is given the power to say Mass.

In the consecration of a bishop, Chrism is used to anoint the head, first with the sign of the Cross, and then the whole crown (remember that clerics had tonsures).   His hands are also consecrated, with Chrism this time, first with a Cross and then the whole of both palms.

This why when bishops were ritually “degraded” their palms were scraped with glass and when bishops received Extreme Unction the backs of their hands were anointed, not their palms.

But that bishop won’t consecrate.  Perfectly in keeping with the desacralization of the priesthood and the rites of Mass and the devolution of constitutive blessings to invocative merely, to lay people touching sacred vessels and the Eucharist, the elimination of altar rails and the sacred space of the sanctuary, the turning about the altar, the virtual abolition of a sacred language, the suppression of minor orders and opening of “ministries” and service at the altar to females….

It’s all part of the ongoing process, all in the name of …. what?   Vatican II’s “universal call to holiness”?


This is getting long.

To the question.

Find another bishop.   I don’t know where you live, but perhaps there is a friendly bishop in a neighboring diocese.  Make it all very private.   Don’t go shouting around, “Bishop Fatty McButterpants in Libville refused to do it, but Bp. Noble in Black Duck was happy to help!”

Find a way.

This is important.

In my “manifesto” I ranted about the “ripple” effect doing sacred things must have in the world as a whole.    Save the Liturgy – Save the World

I wonder how many of the world’s problems today are being exacerbated, amplified, because things being used for Holy Mass, vessels, linens, candles, vestments, etc., have not been properly blessed and/or consecrated.  Things that are still in some way under the thumb of the Enemy, the “prince of this world”, things not yet turned over to God entirely are being used for the Most Sacred, the Sanctissima.

Isn’t that a massive disconnect?  A huge short-circuit of some kind?  A contradiction in terms at the deepest level?

Get a bishop, even if you have to make a special trip somewhere.  The names of tradition friendly bishops are known.  Contact them, one by one, with a private letter, explaining the situation, and asking if they will do it if you come to him.

What a time we are in.  But these mortifications will produce great fruits down the line.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Two notes:
    1. A priest-presbyter [No. PRIEST!] may perform the blessing of the sacred vessels in the Novus Ordo. The form for blessing outside of Mass actually makes use of the word “bless.” The current translation is in the appendix of Dedication of a Church.
    2. If your Vicar General is friendly, he can grant a priest-presbyter [PRIEST] the faculty to consecrate the sacred vessels in the traditional rite, since he is an “ordinary.”

    [We say “priest” around here.]

  2. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    In my world, the lay-world of the construction site, you don’t get paid if you don’t do anything.

    It’s a very interesting concept.

  3. APX says:

    One can also get a vicar general to do it. That’s how our FSSP priest got his chalice consecrated after getting it replated. [This needs to be verified. However, I know that in the consecration of multiple altars during the consecration of a church, priests can anoint the side altars.] The VG was the antithesis of traditional, but he still did it, according to the RR. He was from Goa, and spoke fluent Portuguese, so he could speak very good Latin. Took away our Tabernacle veils, renamed the Hall, “Vatican II Hall” and posted large posters of Pope Francis quoting Vatican II, but even he put aside his Vatican IIness to consecrate that which needed consecrating.

  4. Son of Saint Alphonsus says:

    A thought:

    Perhaps, if necessary, Father could post the chalice and paten to a friendly bishop to be consecrated after which they could be returned via post. Father would, of course, provide everything necessary and pay postage and insurance both ways.

  5. sjoseph371 says:

    Given the state of our bishops of late, I wouldn’t even bother asking them for any blessings. I’d rather go with a reverent priest over just about any bishops any day!!! But that’s just me.

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