Paten Pending: Another New Year’s Resolution

Over the years I have been asked to help out as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and so I understand the many things that the ministers (ordinary and otherwise) have to be thinking about during the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament.

I would like to suggest that more thought be given to one aspect that is currently ignored on a widespread basis: the position of the ciborium and paten.
The smallest particle of the Blessed Sacrament deserves adoration, and thus should be treated with the greatest care and custody.

Fracto demum sacramento 

ne vacilles, sed memento 

tantum esse sub fragmento,

quantum toto tegitur.

One of the easiest ways to respect the Blessed Sacrament, often overlooked, is simply by making sure that the paten, and in the absence of the paten the ciborium, is always underneath the host as it is on its way to being accepted by the communicant. This is very easy to do. Simply hold the paten or ciborium under the host while saying “The Body of Christ” (in the OF), and then, while moving the host towards the communicant’s hand or mouth, simply move the paten or ciborium as well.

This is very easy, but by my observation often neglected. Many times both clerics and EMOHCs will in fact elevate the Blessed Sacrament for several moments while saying “The Body of Christ,” without taking care that the paten or ciborium is directly underneath. This means that any particles will simply fall to the floor.

In a similar vein, it is important to keep the paten horizontal until it has been purified. Again, this is easy to do, but is sometimes neglected.

These basic measures, besides consoling the faithful and reinforcing their devotion to the Lord, show proper care for this divine Gift, deserving of all praise.

13 Replies to “Paten Pending: Another New Year’s Resolution”

  1. Could people be reminded to check their palm after consuming the host? I always check, and found a host particle on my palm one day. Thanks for this blog. God bless you.

  2. Absolutely no offense is intended, but the fact that this article had to be written is indicative of the problem. I have wondered for some time why the priest, in preparation for Benediction, wears a cope and then later humeral veil, all to keep his hands from touching the instrument that will house our Lord in the act of blessing. Meanwhile, a great number of extraordinary ministers, who are apparently at every Mass in every parish in every country, come on up and without a hint of solemnity mirroring the much less intimate act of a blessing, act so casually with the Blessed Sacrament in the act of God communing with men. the lack of coherence is stunning and, in my opinion, a great reason for the lack of faith in today's Catholics.

  3. A very good priest once told me that God has the Holy Angels gather the particles, should any be missed. He was not meaning one should be careless, but simply that one should trust that God will not neglect those that fall unnoticed. Obviously great care is to be taken to do our part, and God will take care of the rest.

    On the issue of using the paten, the altar servers (both the adults and children) at my church have numerous times caused it to be thrust directly, painfully into my throat, so while it is a good practice to move the paten towards the communicant, the communicant is to be taken into consideration, too, and the server ought to make sure the paten does not come into contact with their body. Altar servers can be quite challenged sometimes, especially if they are young, or if the angle from where they stand is awkward (as in our church where they are up on a step above the kneeler). Altar servers may be more trained in placing the paten under the host in order to catch a falling host, not a particle, so their intention is not the same as suggested here.

    Altar servers can also be challenged about determining quickly how the communicant is receiving, in the hand or on the tongue, and by the time they figure it out, they may not have the paten in the right place, especially given the posture of standing in a line at most churches rather than kneeling to receive as a clear sign to the server. One can easily see why altar rails are more suited to this activity…

    On the issue of using the ciborium underneath the communicant's face, I think that other things can descend upon the remaining hosts in the ciborium besides any host particles…during cold and flu season especially. Not necessarily a sanitary practice, and the bigger question would be why couldn't someone be called upon to perform the altar server function (of holding the paten) before mass begins rather than have this situation at all. I've never been to a parish where someone would not be willing to step forward and assist if called upon to do so.

    Aside from the host, there are much greater dangers when the Precious Blood is distributed. I had the extraordinary minister spill it down the front of my dress years ago. They exhibited no concern whatsoever about what happened or what ought to be done. At another parish, we had carpeting in the area where the extraordinary minister stood, so when they spilled some onto the carpet, they had no idea what to do. The particular individual who did this was actually the person in charge of extraordinary ministers. I think the big problem is that the pastor delegates responsibilities in this area to people who do not have adequate training and so in turn do not give adequate training to others.

  4. Respectfully, it is a position that should almost never exist except 'extraordinarily'. Take the E.F. (Traditional Latin Mass). Here you may find it in one or two parishes in a diocese with one or two E.F. Masses at said parish every Sunday. How is that form of the word EXTRAORDINARY so different than the form used when talking about lay ministers of Holy Communion? In the words of Princess Bride: "I don't think that word means what you think it means…" It sounds like the priest who was speaking of the Angels picking up the fragments was well-meaning, but also did not go even close to far enough to limit abuse. Holy Communion should be distributed by clergy only and then only on the tongue.

  5. As an instituted acolyte, I must thank you for this post and this very helpful hint. I will try it out the next time I distribute Holy Communion.

  6. Your "should" statement is not really based in fact. There is in the US according to the GIRM the option of receiving either on the tongue or in the hand. That is a fact. The Bishop also is allowed to permit Extraordinary Ministers at parishes. Whether or not this is a good practice is clearly open to debate (yes, your view is probably the view of what would be the best practice for everyone). But at this point in time it is permitted. So there is a difference between what you say "should" happen and what is actually very permissible.

    Also, I was speaking more broadly of what takes place at all masses, not just the EF masses, where this is better under the control of the priest, as you pointed out. By removing the communion rails and creating the standing mode of receiving communion, it is not so much that deliberate abuses exist as sheer ignorance and sloppiness are often the resulting situation.

    So many situations arise during the distribution of hosts because of the behavior of the communicants, that it becomes a hard task even for those who know exactly what to do. At an EF mass, I saw a communicant next to me want to receive in the hand, and the priest merely stated that the communicant had to receive on the tongue, and they did not want to do so. It's up to the communicant to follow the priest's directions. As an extraordinary minister, I had someone ask for a host to bring back to the pew where his mother was seated, and he had no pyx, either, just wanted me to put it into his hand. I told him I could not do that, but to tell me where his mother is and I will bring it to her or he could talk to the priest after mass, and he was very angry and walked away. These situations can exist in both forms of mass, but less so in the EF form.

    Also to clarify, the priest's comments were not aimed at correcting any abuses at all, they were aimed at only sharing his view of the situation as a reality: we cannot possibly see all particles, but we need not be scandalized about that which is neither intended by anyone nor avoidable for the most minute particles. He was modeling for us how to leave that into God's care, rather than to be scandalized by what is beyond our ability to control.

  7. I meant "should" not according to the actual law, but according to prudence, which many bishops lacked by permitting this practice. just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done.

  8. A lot of good points are being made in this discussion, but I'd like to stay on-topic if possible: the careful placement of the paten.

  9. If everyone confidently stuck out their hands or tongue, there'd be no need for patens. Particles rarely, fall in motion. They stick to fingers and fall with fraction like the friction when priests have to try to slide Communion into the tiny coin slot you create with your mouth.

  10. The purpose of the humeral veil at Benediction is not so that the priest does not touch the monstrance (he does anyway) but to cover his hands so that it is clear that he himself is performing the blessing.

  11. Anybody have any sources for information about the significance of the humeral veil during benediction? The purpose during EF Mass is to avoid touching sacred vessels. The rubrics for Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass seem to prescribe the veil without giving a purpose.

  12. Thank you, John. This is another reason why the paten/ ciborium should travel beneath the host, so that any particles that fall during the reception of Communion may not fall to the ground.

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