Questions Answered

  • 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.

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avatar About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, "Questions Answered".

Please send your questions to:
Fr. Brian T. Mullady, O.P.
375 NE Clackamas St.
Portland, OR 97232

Comments

  1. avatar Laurens says:

    Where I live, once the priest found out he would run out of host and just broke all the remaining hosts into smaller pieces. Not sure if valid, however it felt genius.

  2. avatar Rose says:

    I have seen instances where the priest broke the hosts in two to accommodate the fact that there were not enough consecrated. Is this permissible?

  3. avatar Paulette Houle says:

    Is it permissible for a priest to constantly omit the prayer after the washing of the hands [pray brothers @ sisters that my sacrifice @ yours etc.]?

  4. avatar El Gato says:

    “They knew it was Christ in the breaking of the bread.” The bread is broken at the consecration. I don’t think there is a minimum size. Hosts could be broken into halves or quarters. As long as it is identifiable as bread and eaten as such…

  5. avatar Brown says:

    I thought, I was taught, that reception of either the Precious Blood or the Holy Eucharist was valid for the reception of Communion. You stated above, that the reception of the Precious Blood, alone, was valid as Communion only in an emergency situation. Do I understand correctly?

  6. avatar Tad says:

    Are priests permitted to omit the elevation of the host and chalice during the “Behold the Lamb of God”? This seems to be the thing to do now. Where do these ideas keep coming from? When will these novelties be stopped?

  7. avatar Darnell Cuevas says:

    Further question about fast? We had a Priest who removed a water fountain from the entry lobby of Church stating that too many were simply taking water as they entered the Sanctuary because the fountain was too conveniently located. That said to me that even though water is allowed it is meant to be used for the administering of medical or if someone is choking. Water should be part of the one hour fast if it is not being taken for medicine or choking. Is my assumption correct?

  8. avatar Joseph says:

    It is amazing that very little has changed since Our Lord walked the earth.The scribes and pharisees of His day asked similiar questions and He reprimanded them for their “LETTER of the Law thinking.” I’m sure these same folks are still around today; yet, we do need guidelines, and to try to adhere to them for the sake of consistency. This also adds stability to the practices established and on the books. Best approach may well be “do what you can, accept it that you cannot always have perfection, or go somewhere else.” I love Peter’s response of “Where can we go Lord,you have the words to eternal life.”

  9. avatar Tad says:

    No one should have to leave a parish due the priest changing the mass. As Catholics we have a right to the mass as it is set forth in the missal. No priest has the right to change it. It is pride that is taking them over when they think they know more then the church about the liturgy.

  10. avatar k.c.thomas says:

    It is requested that the e mail id be given so that the faithful outside the U.S also can get their doubts clarified.. Thanking profusely for the kind explanations of Fr.Mullady

  11. avatar FrHaroldP says:

    As long as I speak the words of consecration, with the intention to make it the Body and Blood, and I have the matter, it doesn’t matter the mass context, father, respectfully. That is how powerful Christ’s priesthood is. Those rules really do not have much weight anymore anyway, esp. when it comes to the highest rule, charity. You will not catch me failing to accomplish the Lord’s command “Feed my sheep.” …..just because low on hosts?

    • avatar Matt says:

      With deep respect, sir, “Those rules really do not have much weight anymore anyway…” is one of the most dangerous ideas ever promulgated. I hear the same thing or a form of it from Catholics and non-Catholics almost every day now, thanks to the internet. Inconvenience and age are the number one excuses to ignore the wisdom of the Church and follow your own way. Before you know it, you aren’t even really Catholic any more.

      You can break hosts in half or in quarters, so really there shouldn’t be an issue. If for some reason one does run out of hosts, consider that accidents do happen, and God looks at the desire of the heart. Those who wished to communicate but are denied out of their control will likely receive the same graces and benefits as if they had.

    • avatar Joan says:

      The highest rule…charity? That usually means giving Holy Communion to EVERYONE who approaches even if grave sin is clearly known. (living together, divorce, pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, etc.) Desecration of the Holy Eucharist is not charity.

      • avatar Joseph says:

        TELL THAT TO JESUS,HE GAVE IT TO JUDAS.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Joseph,
        Go to each gospel dealing with the last supper. Three are ambiguous on your claim that Christ gave the Eucharist to Judas. But in John, the Last Supper goes on for five chapters from 13 to 18 and the morsel incident is in the very beginning with no mention, as elsewhere of the Eucharist moment. Then Judas left and the last supper goes onward with long monologues by Christ. Furthermore were the morsel actually the Eucharist, why would Christ dip it in sauce? Anyone who loves wine knows it is a waste of wine to dip something in it….you lose the quality of the wine. Therefore Christ was dipping the morsel in a sauce likely derived from the lamb’s fat mixed with other elements. The real Eucharist is never dipped in other elements as though Christ needed help to be attractive. Here’s John 13:

        Announcement of Judas’s Betrayal.m
        21
        When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
        22
        The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
        23
        One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,* was reclining at Jesus’ side.n
        24
        So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
        25
        He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?”o
        26
        Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel* after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and [took it and] handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.
        27
        After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”p
        28
        [Now] none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
        29
        Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor.q
        30
        So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.
        …………………………………………………………………………………………….

    • avatar Rose says:

      FrHaroldP says You will not catch me failing to accomplish the Lord’s command “Feed my sheep.” …..just because low on hosts?
      What you are feeding is not TRUTH. I will pray for you Fr.

    • avatar Father Dylan Schrader says:

      The consecration would be valid, but it is contrary to the nature of the Eucharist as Christ established it to consecrate outside of the context of the sacrifice. Hence, the Code of Canon Law uses the word “nefas” to describe this action.

      To separate the sacrificial meaning of the Eucharist from its sacramental meaning is to betray what Jesus commanded us to do. In such a case, even though the faithful receive Holy Communion, they are not benefiting from the fruits of the Mass, and the Eucharist has become, as it were, merely a meal, even if a sacred one, and not also an offering to God.

  12. avatar Tad says:

    And Jesus was obedient to the end… I desire obedience over sacrifice! All must be and model obedience. Set the good example, Father Harold! We are not a bunch of unaligned protestant churches. We have proper authorities. If you cannot follow your bishop and the church, why should I listen to you? You weaken your message by going your own way. The sheep will be scattered!

  13. avatar Fr says:

    I often break the small hosts into halves as I make my way down the communion rail.
    As an Anglican, I have in the Book of Common Pryer a rubric which allows me to consecrate bread and wine using a shorter version of the canon. The Rubric points out that the Roman Rite contains no such method, other than a whole new Mass.

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