Consecrating a Second Batch of Hosts

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Consecrating a "Second Batch" of Hosts

ROME, 17 MAY 2005 (ZENIT)

Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: I recently attended Mass at an out-of-town Catholic conference, in a convention center, where there was a large crowd on hand. Soon after Communion began, the concelebrating priests realized that even after dividing the small Hosts they were going to be more than 100 short. One priest, seeing that the hosts were almost finished, said, "I'll go make some more." Shortly afterward I observed him at a side table saying the prayers of consecration over a "new batch" of hosts and chalice of wine. He later explained to the congregation that it was all right to do just the consecration since we didn't end the Mass. Is it invalid and illicit what this priest did? Did the faithful that received the "second batch" receive Christ? — N.B., Bethesda, Maryland

A: The priest was certainly in error although he may have done this in good faith, believing that he was acting justly.

The fact that he consecrated both bread and wine at least indicates that he was aware of canon law's prohibition of ever consecrating the species separately.

As Canon 927 states: "It is absolutely forbidden, even in extreme urgent necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other or even both outside the eucharistic celebration."

He apparently believed that by consecrating more bread and wine within the context of the Mass he did not fall within the strictures of this prohibition.

However, what he did was, in effect, to celebrate another Mass within Mass, as the consecration of new species implies a new sacrifice. He therefore contravened the second aspect of the canon by consecrating both species outside the Eucharistic celebration even though he was still celebrating another Mass.

This case is different from that foreseen in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 324, in which for some reason the wine was not properly consecrated:

"If the priest notices after the consecration or as he receives Communion that not wine but only water was poured into the chalice, he pours the water into some container, then pours wine with water into the chalice and consecrates it. He says only the part of the institution narrative related to the consecration of the chalice, without being obliged to consecrate the bread again."

The same principle would be applied if, as has happened, a parishioner informs a priest after Mass that he forgot to consecrate the wine. This process is necessary in order for the sacrifice, and hence the Mass, to be complete.

With respect to the validity of the "second batch" of hosts, I would say that they were valid for Communion, and did contain the Lord's real presence.

What should a priest do in similar cases of emergency when hosts are lacking?

I think the best solution is to simply apologize for what happened. Sometimes we priests have recourse to extravagant "solutions" when all that is needed is to recognize our fallibility and liability to make mistakes.

This is especially so in situations, such as that described, when the consequences of not being able to receive Communion in this circumstance does not imply a major spiritual damage to the faithful and where an alternative solution may be found at some other moment of the day.

In some cases, such as mission territories when Mass and Communion are rare treasures, a priest caught in this predicament would be justified in offering to celebrate another Mass right after the first one, lest anybody be deprived of Communion for a long time. ZE05051727

* * *

Follow-up: 2nd Batch of Hosts [05-31-2005]

Several questions have matured from our discussion on the consecration of a second batch of hosts during Mass (see May 17).

Priests from India and Indonesia suggested that a possible solution to a shortage of consecrated hosts would be to dip unconsecrated hosts in the chalice as a means of distributing Communion only under the species of Blood.

While this suggestion was made in obvious good faith, it is not viable as this practice has been explicitly rejected in No. 104 of the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum":

"The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice, nor to receive the intincted host in the hand. As for the host to be used for the intinction, it should be made of valid matter, also consecrated; it is altogether forbidden to use non-consecrated bread or other matter."

A seminarian from Manila asked for a clarification regarding the principle to be applied if a priest is informed after Mass that he forgot to consecrate the chalice.

The principle was that of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 324, in which the priest should place wine and water in the chalice and, in order to complete the sacrifice, reverently recite only that part of the consecration pertaining to the chalice, and immediately consume it. If necessary, he may perform this act privately, but should do so without any delay whatsoever.

This situation is different from one illustrated by a reader from the United Kingdom in which a priest forgot to receive from the chalice before distributing Communion and remembered only after the chalice had been emptied.

Technically this would be called an irregularity, as the priest is obliged to receive under both kinds. This error also occurs sometimes at large concelebrations at which, due to lack of careful planning, some priests are left by the wayside in the distribution of the chalice.

While it should not happen, it does not affect the validity of the Mass for either priest or faithful. The only thing to be done about it is to learn the lesson the hard way, ask forgiveness for any culpable negligence, and be more careful and attentive the next time.

A Hartford, Connecticut, reader asked about the following situation: "Before distribution of the consecrated elements, the celebrant requested a server to bring a large pitcher of water to the altar, and added more water to the already consecrated wine, presumably to ensure that there would be enough for the more than 300 people in attendance. This was quite surprising to me, and would seem to possibly compromise the integrity of the species of the Precious Blood of Christ. Was this Mass invalid because of the addition of water to the Precious Blood?"

Once more, this action, while very illicit, would not affect the validity of the Mass as such. It could however, depending on the quantity of water added to the Precious Blood, corrupt the integrity of the species so that it no longer contained the real presence of Christ.

This would be practically certain to have happened if the quantity of water were more than half. In such a case, those who received this mixture would have received only Christ's Body during Communion. The priest would be gravely responsible for having induced them into unknowingly committing a material act of idolatry in receiving a mixture that was not Christ's Precious Blood.

The corruption of the species would be more doubtful in the case of a lesser quantity of water. But this would never justify the lack of respect shown toward Our Lord by ever adding a non-consecrated substance (whether water or even more wine) to the Precious Blood out of utilitarian motives.

Besides, this process is never necessary, even if the amount of Precious Blood be deemed insufficient for those present. The option of administrating both species by intinction always remains open. And should even this be impracticable, there is never an obligation to distribute under both kinds.

As in the previous case of a shortage of hosts, a priestly apology is simply the best solution.

Another reader asked about the precise moment of the transformation of the bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood. We have already touched upon this theme in our answer and corresponding follow-up of Nov. 25 and Dec. 9, 2003. ZE05053122

* * *

Follow-up: 2nd Batch of Hosts, Continued [06-14-2005]

Thanks be to God for our careful readers who manage to keep me orthodox in spite of myself.

In our follow-up regarding adding water to the chalice after the consecration (see May 31) I said that the corruption of the species of wine "would be practically certain to have happened if the quantity of water were more than half. In such a case, those who received this mixture would have received only Christ's Body during Communion."

The point I, maladroitly, tried to make was that the mixture no longer contained Christ's real presence. However, the phrasing could easily be understood that one did not receive the whole Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity, under the species of bread alone. Likewise, in those special cases where, for medical reasons, a person receives only the Precious Blood, he also receives the whole Christ. I apologize for any confusion or distress I may have caused.

Although receiving Communion under both species is more perfect from the point of view of the sign, and Church law now gives fairly wide leeway to bishops to grant this permission, the distribution of the Eucharist under the species of bread alone remains the ordinary mode of Communion in the Church.

I will take the opportunity to answer some other questions that arose in this context.

A Virginia reader asks: "Regarding 'homemade' bread with additional matter (other than flour and water), it is my understanding that because it is invalid matter it cannot be transubstantiated into Jesus' Body and Blood. I assume the Mass is also invalid. Is this correct?"

While there is no absolute prohibition on using homemade bread that respects the conditions for valid matter, it is usually not very practical. The making of hosts is something of an art and homemade hosts are often flaky and brittle.

If, in addition, other elements are added (for example, sugar, molasses or honey), the probability that it is no longer valid matter is very high although one would have to examine each case on its merits. As "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 48, says:

"The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools."

The Church requires certainty and not probability as to the validity of the sacraments. Thus, doubtful matter may never be used in any circumstances whatsoever. A priest who finds himself in such a situation should not proceed with the celebration until all doubt has been removed.

A Scottish priest asks: "Is reception under both kinds necessary for validity for clergy to have said Mass at a concelebration? Linked to that, if a priest has not received under both kinds at a Mass at which he is a concelebrant, may he still take a stipend?"

Strictly speaking, except in the case of a priest who, due to illness, has been granted special permission from the bishop to receive under one species, reception of Communion under both kinds is necessary for all concelebrants for a licit celebration. But it would not normally be required for validity as the Mass — that is, the full consecration — was celebrated and at least the main celebrant consumed both under both species.

Thus, if due to some accident, a concelebrant was unable to receive from the chalice, he may receive a regular stipend if this is his only Mass that day. A priest may never receive a stipend for a concelebrated Mass if he celebrates another Mass on the same day — for example, at his parish and at a funeral. He may offer the concelebrated Mass for any intention he wishes but without receiving a stipend.

The situation of an invalid participation in a concelebration might arise if a priest where to join in, so to speak, as an uninvited guest, and where from the beginning there is no possibility of full and licit participation.

I have unfortunately seen this happen at papal Masses where attending priests pull a stole out of the pocket and pronounce the words of consecration. There are several liturgical and theological reasons to doubt the validity of this procedure although the question has not yet been addressed officially. ZE05061423

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