Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pop Quiz

This is for the clergy out there.

Hypothetically, of course...

A brand new, volunteer sacristan has combined a bag of unconsecrated hosts with the consecrated hosts from the Tabernacle in a large ciborium, and there's no way to determine which are which.

Mass is now thirty minutes from starting.  How do you handle it in a way that:
  1. Stresses to the sacristan how wrong doing such a thing is.
  2. Keeps the sacristan from running out of the sacristy in tears, never to show up again.
  3. Gets the unconsecrated hosts consecrated at Mass.
  4. Prevent the appearance of the need to "reconsecrate" already consecrated hosts.
OK, take a swing at it.  Please stress what you'd do to handle the situation of the hosts, not what you'd do to torture the sacristan.


Fr. Robert Dunn said...

1 & 3 - But without anger or drama. It is doubtful it was malicious and may actually be an opportunity for catechesis. I would also avoid public mention due to the distress it could cause some.

If the situation persists, and dismissing the sacristan is not possible, I wonder if a virtual intention to consecrate what is not consecrated in the Tabernacle is possible. Not sure on the last one so I'd consult a real sacramental theolgian.

Lesley said...

Not clergy, but a long-time volunteer sacristan who has made most mistakes in the book but not that one! I think the priest should have the ciborium with all the hosts on the altar during consecration, but his "intention" should be to consecrate only the unconsecrated hosts. And please be really gentle with the sacristan who made the mistake!
Hazel in Canada

canon1753 said...

I remember this happened at a location common to us... I don't know about how to not to vaporize the sacristan, but for the practical problem, at the consecration include in your intention to consecrate all of the unconsecrated hosts in the tabernacle. That saves the scandal of looking like you are reconsecrating hosts. I have seen this done by a good priest with the approval of other good priests who would have said to do something differently if it was improper.

Joe said...

1. Explain the problem to the Sacristan, and ask him/her if they can think of what to do.

2. Explain to the Sacristan that, as with all Liturgical mishaps, someone, somewhere must have done something worse .... You must have a story or two - perhaps from seminary days - that you could use as proof of this!

3. Ah, now, have you assumed that it is necessary to get the unconsecrated hosts consecrated? If the parish has a good supply of unconsecrated hosts still in their bags in the sacristy cupboard this may not be necessary (see below).

4. Don't even try to consecrate the unconsecrated hosts in the ciborium (see below).

Either immediately, or at some other discrete juncture, consume all the hosts in the ciborium yourself. Use the plentiful supply of fresh, unconsecrated hosts from the cupboard for Mass in thirty minutes.

Now what would Davis (4 volumes of Moral and Pastoral Theology) have to say?

All, hypothetically of course ...

Unknown said...

I'm not a priest, but I am a sacristan. I would say that either you should get a large bowl and fill it with water to dissolve all of the Hosts completely then dispose of the remnants reverently; or, because that could take quite a long time, have all of the Hosts consumed. It is an unusual case simply because it sounds like there are so many. I don't think there is a way based on your description to differentiate between the unconsecrated and consecrated hosts and it would be better to simply start over. Besides, if mass was so close then you could simply consecrate more than was needed to replenish the supply in the tabernacle.
I remember that when I first started I stayed as far away from the tabernacle as possible to keep things like that from happening. We've had, unfortunately, some of the EMHCs come close to doing something just like that a few times at my parish.

Unknown said...

Not a cleric, but wouldn't your intention be the defining factor? Could you leave the Ciborium to the side, perhaps on the altar or even on the credence table, and include the unconsecrated hosts in your intention as you say mass? Jesus already knows where He is and could make those intentions perfect.

As for how to impress the difference upon the sacristan, that would depend on the thinking behind the action. Does the sacristan understand that the Real Presence is no longer bread? If not, time to teach. If yes, time to reflect/share on the humility of our God and how we want to show Him the reverence He is due.

Aaron Traas said...

I'm not clergy, but I regularly serve as thurifer in an EF mass. I'm assuming ritual burning at the stake is out. Here's my attempt:

1&2) Stress to the sacristan that the hosts in the tabernacle are always consecrated, and are such the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereas the unconsecrated hosts are not. I forbid the sacristan from ever touching the tabernacle, and forbid from touching any of the sacred vessels with an un-gloved hand, to emphasize that said vessels are precious and reserved for the hands that consecrate the Eucharist.

3&4) Prepare another ciborium of unconsecrated hosts, place it on the altar next to the ciboria of mixed hosts during the consecration. Explain to the sacristan, who I assume is the only one who knows of the mix up, that the hosts which are already Jesus are not re-consecrated; they are merely present for the consecration.

Alternate 3&4) Wrap the ciborium with a large cloth, and attach a note to it, denoting that it must not be used for mass, and put it in the tabernacle. After all masses for the day are done, use the pre-concillular Roman Ritual communion rite, remove from the tabernacle, and consume all of the hosts.

Brianus Patricius Sarto said...

Act of Intention - All unconsecrated hosts in ciborium. Boom...problem solved. Hurt feelings avoided, Body of Christ, consecrated.

Jay said...

When do we get the answer? I'm dead curious.

Unknown said...

The priest can INTEND to consecrate only the un-consecrated Hosts in the ciborium since the already consecrated Hosts cannot be 're-consecrated.' Similar to a CONDITIONAL baptism where the celebrant intends to baptize IF the person is not already baptized. Conditional consecration in such cases is permitted to avoid the scandal of having to dispose of so many Hosts.

The sacristan MUST be told (as we heard in the Gospel a few weeks ago) DISCREETLY and PRIVATELY and with CHARITY. Fraternal correction is NECESSARY however just as would be in the case of nurse or doctor who made a mistake in surgery or treatment of a patient. Human error is inevitable but should never be treated maliciously nor too casually, either.

Peter said...

Those giving the 'intention' answer have provided a neat solution to one of the most pressing issues in this 'pop quiz', but they leave some important matters unanswered.

If the erring sacristan sees this neat solution enacted with little fuss then they might be tempted to store the hosts with unconsecrated bread again... "What's the problem Father? Just do it like you did last time!"

In some ways it might be better, pastorally speaking, to opt for a more inconvenient and dramatic solution (such as disolving in water), doing so with great gentleness, love, patience and calm explanations of course, so that the person is properly catechised by ACTIONS. Actions speak far louder than words. Any seeming 'business as usual' approach is in danger of understating the matter.