Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Every priest's nightmare


I don’t suppose that it happens at an Ordinary Form Mass.

That moment when, horror of horrors, the priest drops the consecrated host just as he was about to place it on the tongue of one of the faithful.

I posted some months ago, about how, whilst serving Mass in a side chapel at St Maria Maggiore in Rome, such an accident occurred, through no fault of the celebrant, Fr Adrian Wiltshire.
I knew (or, so I thought) that the correct course of action was for me as server,  to place the communion plate over the host so that it could be retrieved reverently after Mass but, on this occasion it was the last fragment in the ciborium and there was a communicant waiting.

“Pick it up” Whispered Fr W.
I made a move to do so and then froze. I had never in my life touched a consecrated host other than on my tongue and to do so now seemed a sacrilege somehow.

“Pick it up” whispered the good priest yet again. My hand moved another foot closer before I froze yet again.
I knew the priests suffered from bad arthritis and could not possibly undertake the action himself and it was common sense for me to step into the breach but I was still playing the part of a statue.
It could only have been a few seconds but it seemed like ten minutes had passed before I forced myself to pick up the host and hand it to the priest.

When I posted on this previously, some kind soul left a comment to the effect: “Just get over it and if you can’t get over it go and see a psychiatrist”. I felt like giving the Dorothy Day response: “I’m a Catholic, I don’t need a psychiatrist” but didn’t.

So what is the correct procedure? 
The reason I ask is that I had a report of this happening in a prominent parish in London recently. The priest had hesitated and then picked up the host and placed it on the tongue of the communicant.

Under those circumstances I do not believe that was the correct course of action.
Some think that the priest, himself, should consume it on the spot.

I am not so sure; I think the communion plate as a temporary cover is correct.

Photo: WDTPRS Blog
                                       A Sacrarium - every sacristy should have one

Then, the host would be retrieved and placed in a sacrarium.
Now, I had never heard of a sacrarium until reading Fr Z’s blog a few days ago.
A sacrarium is a covered sink with an outlet pipe running into the earth externally. Any consecrated hosts that require to be disposed of (for very legitimate reasons) are placed in water in the sacrarium until such time as they have dissolved and may be allowed to drain outside into the ground.

It is worth noting the correct procedure (if, indeed, I am correct) as this sort of accident can happen occasionally.
Of course, if the altar server is doing his stuff, the damage is limited in most cases. He must be adept at shadowing the priest’s hand as he removes the host from the ciborium to place it on the tongue, not always easy.

Then there is the account of St Richard of Chichester, when, at the moment of consecration of the Precious Blood, a large and hirsute spider fell into the chalice.

The saint did not hesitate for one second before consuming the contents of the chalice, spider and all.

But then, he was a saint.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

1 comment:

  1. I have heard of a sick person and vomiting the just-consumed host and the priest consuming the vomitus without a moment's hesitation.


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