- What should be done if the priest runs out of hosts once communion begins?
- Do cough drops violate the Communion fast?
Question: I recently attended Mass, and after Communion began, the priests realized there were not enough hosts. The tabernacle was practically empty. The celebrating priest said he could make more. He consecrated hosts that he had brought out on the credence table, and said this was fine since he had not finished Mass. Is what he did right? Can you just consecrate a second batch of hosts?
Answer: The action which the questioner observed is a serious violation of Church law and is based on a complete misunderstanding of the Mass. There can be no excuse for it. Canon 927 is very explicit about this practice: “It is absolutely forbidden, even in extreme urgent necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other, or even both outside the Eucharistic celebration.”
To be fair to the priest in question, and giving him the benefit of the doubt that he is in good faith, there is a situation which is foreseen in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 324. The Roman Missal here permits the consecration of the Precious Blood during the celebration of Mass after the consecration, on the supposition that the wine was not properly consecrated during the words of institution. This is an easy mistake to make, for example, when the wine is white, as some white wine in cruets is not easily distinguished from water to the naked eye. “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.” This would also be the case if for some reason as, for example, old age, a parishioner points out to the priest that he forgot to consecrate the Precious Blood. The weight of this practice is based on the necessity of completing the sacrifice.
Though there have been many theories about the exact moment when the sacrifice is present in the Mass, the most commonly accepted one is that it is in the double consecration of the bread and wine. The final completion of the sacrificial act demands the consumption of the elements by the celebrating priest. If only the bread were consecrated, but not the wine, the sacrifice would not be completely present, and the priest could not complete the action in his communion.
If the priest has consecrated both the bread and the wine in a short ritual with merely the offertory, consecration, and Communion, then this would be a valid second Mass within the context of the first Mass. However, to merely go back and consecrate a second batch of hosts, or to just take unconsecrated hosts from the sacristy, is a serious violation of the whole idea of Transubstantiation and its foundation character for the Mass as a sacrifice offered for the living and the dead. In fact, it smacks of the Lutheran practice in which it is believed that the presence of Christ occurs together with the bread only during the actual celebration of the Eucharist (in usu) in the classic expression. As a result, the Eucharist is not a sacrifice, and cannot be offered for the living and the dead. If the minister runs out of communion during the Eucharist, he merely blesses more, and after the Eucharist, the presence of Christ ceases, and the bread only remains so that the Eucharist cannot be reserved.
Though the canons permit the Precious Blood to be consecrated during the Eucharist separate from the Body of Christ, this is not the case if one merely runs out of consecrated hosts. After all, the Body of Christ has already been consecrated during the words of institution, and so the sacrifice is present.
If one runs out of hosts, the best course is to apologize to the congregation and guarantee that, in the future, there may be a sufficient quantity of hosts reserved in the tabernacle. The faithful can always make a spiritual Communion in this emergency circumstance. If there is danger that the faithful might be without Communion for a prolonged period of time in a mission context, for instance, then the priest might quickly celebrate another Mass so they can communicate.
One author recounts the fact that in some mission countries, the priests have taken to doing communion with unconsecrated hosts by intinction in the Precious Blood. This practice, however, is also explicitly denied by Redemptoris Sacramentum, No. 104: “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 unconsecrated bread or other matter.” In an emergency situation, the reception of only the Precious Blood would be sufficient.
Question: Do cough drops violate the Communion fast?
Answer: The purpose of the Communion fast is to prepare the faithful well for Holy Communion by emphasizing the fact that Communion is a supernatural act. The reception of Holy Communion is such a deep and mysterious act that not only should persons be morally prepared by not being aware of grave sin, but they should also externally manifest the importance of this act by the physical preparation of fasting from food and drink for one hour before the actual reception of the Eucharist.
Some authors think that though the law at the moment only demands one hour, it would be more appropriate to fast somewhat longer. The former law required a fast from midnight, but this is difficult with the present demands of society and the Church.
The canon which governs this practice reads: “1. One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion. 2. A priest who celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist two or three times on the same day may take something before the second or third celebration even if the period of one hour does not intervene. 3. Those who are advanced in age, or who suffer from any infirmity, as well as those who take care of them, can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have taken something during the previous hour” (Canon 919).
Obviously the norms preclude taking something like coffee, which is more than water, or candy or breath mints if they are swallowed. Traditionally, moral theologians have tried to define what constitutes food. It must be: (a) edible, (b) taken orally, and (c) swallowed. Candies and actual food would thus break the fast. Some moralists are so rigorous as to suggest that cough drops, or sore throat disks, would be included in this if they are dissolved, or chewed and swallowed. Given the designation of medicine though, this seems unusually rigorist. Consequently, the cough drop would not break the fast, since it is not food.