Questions Answered – August 2022

Mixing Unconsecrated Hosts

Question: Is it a sin for a priest to mix unconsecrated hosts with the consecrated Precious Blood in intinction when distributing communion?

Answer: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. In the Eucharist we enter into communion with the living God, worship God in heaven, and are present at Calvary while we are on earth. This call depends on the miracle of transubstantiation, which is not just bread or wine with a special blessing.

In the case you mention, the priest may consecrate both the bread and the wine in a short ritual with merely the offertory, consecration, and Communion. This then 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.

Any abuse of this practice is condemned in several Church documents, and it should be obvious that to say “The Body of Christ” when it is not the “Body of Christ” but common bread mixed with consecrated hosts is a lie and therefore a sin. Since it deals with holy things, it is also a sacrilege. See, for example:

“Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example, casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground incurs the penalties laid down. Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist.” (Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Redemptionis Sacramentum, 2004, n. 107.

Though priests may have the best intention in the world in adding unconsecrated hosts to consecrated ones, it is still a sin.

The Eucharist: Substance and Accidents

Question: I understand that in the Eucharist the substance of the bread is transubstantiated into the substance of the Body of Christ. The accidents of the bread, though, remain. My question: when we consider the substance of the body of Christ in the Eucharist, does this substance also include the accidents of His body? Or is it the substance of His body without the accidents of His body?

I ask because of what the Catechism of the Council of Trent states under the section of “The Meaning of the Real Presence”: “Here the pastor should explain that in this sacrament are contained not only the true body of Christ and all the constituents of a true body, but also Christ whole and entire.”

Answer: Christ wishes to be intimately present to everyone in his true body and blood while on earth as the food of pilgrims. He could not do this if he were only present in the manner his body is present in heaven. The Blessed Sacrament is truly that body, but present in a substantial sacramental way. His body does not move through space to leave heaven and become present in one altar on earth, then in another. The change of transubstantiation is not just a change in form nor a change in place. It is a true change in substance. The dimensions and quantity of Christ’s risen body remain at the right hand of the Father, but become completely present on all the altars of the world completely and simultaneously, otherwise we would not all participate equally in the fullness of his obedience and love. This is what substantial presence means. It is the whole Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity.

The sacrament is a sign of his body and blood in the sense that they become present in the manner of a sacrament. All that is needed for the value of the sign is for the appearances to sense to remain for us. Not only is the form of the being changed, but the very vehicle of natural change does not endure.

In this, the change of transubstantiation is unlike any other natural change. In all other natural changes, there is a medium of change which must endure which is called matter. The properties express the change from one thing to another in the underlying medium of the change. In sculpting the block of marble, the marble is the medium which changes from a block to a stature. In air changing from cold to hot, the underlying medium of the change is the matter which the change in properties merely express when the being becomes a new being. In a living body changing to a dead body, the matter of the living body is the subject which survives as the matter of the dead body. Matter is the vehicle of change; form and properties are the things which change.

In the Eucharist, the whole substance is instantaneously converted into the body of Christ. Yet the appearances or properties remain miraculously. The form and the matter change completely. One could say that in a certain way the appearances or properties are the subject or the medium which supports the change and this is a miracle. These appearances are not an illusion. They are truly what the senses perceive and they truly express the thing which is there. Yet they do so by miraculous conservation because they do not inhere in the being of the body of Christ as other properties do. They perform what is characteristic of properties. The appearances of the precious blood would make someone drunk if he drank too much. The appearances of bread would nourish, if enough were eaten. Yet what happens to them is not true of the body. If they are divided, the body of Christ in heaven is not divided. If they are moved, the body of Christ is not moved. They move up to express him. Each particle of the properties express the whole Christ.

Since the whole Christ present in heaven becomes present without any local movement, this is truly the bread of angels which they adore now. The altar becomes heaven with the adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the Apocalypse present to us. The altar becomes the place where all the former works by which God prepared for the Cross of Christ become present in him. Yet heaven does not move, the bread and wine are changed wholly into the Lamb who exists there now. This is also the food of pilgrims. Christ instituted such a change that we might be transformed morally into him while on earth to support us spiritually on our journey to heaven.

The substance, therefore, cannot not include the accidents which remain the sign. As Hopkins says in his English translation of Adoro te devote: “Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived. How says holy hearing that shall be believed.” Also the dimensions of the Body and Blood of Christ is heaven are present but by concomitance, which means as an expression of the substance. But again, they do not move when the properties of bread are moved here on earth. Yet they are worshiped when the properties of bread are worshiped and the Mass is offered. The substance of the body includes the matter and form and by concomitance the blood. But the accidents are the medium by which we experience them.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP 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.”

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