I’m thinking about converting to the Catholic Church. I recently started RCIA and after becoming comfortable with the priest I decided to go to a mass. I went and really enjoyed it. I have a question about what happened after the Eucharist.
After the entire church (three people) were served, the priest took the host and carried it back to the alter. I noticed while he was walking back to the alter he was chewing something. I realized he was eating the remander of the host (eating it like popcorn). Is this premissible? He than drank the rest of the wine in the cup. This all looked rather strange to me. Should he have done this?
Yes. Often, but not always (depending on circumstances, the location, etc.), some of the remaining Eucharistic Bread will be reserved (kept in the tabernacle) for purposes like taking to the sick. With very rare exceptions, though, the Precious Blood is never reserved. So when the elements are not to be reserved, they must be fully consumed at Mass. Generally it is the priest who will do this, although he can ask others to help, and this is totally normal.
I’m glad you’re asking questions! This is a great place to get answers, but please know that your priest will also be happy to explain things you don’t understand or haven’t seen.
From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
“163. When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.”
“182. … If Communion is given under both kinds, the deacon himself administers the chalice to the communicants; and, when the distribution is completed, he immediately and reverently consumes at the altar all of the Blood of Christ that remains, assisted if necessary by other deacons and priests.
183. When the distribution of Communion is completed, the deacon returns to the altar with the priest and collects the fragments, if any remain, and then carries the chalice and other sacred vessels to the credence table, where he purifies them and arranges them in the usual way while the priest returns to the chair. It is also permissible to leave the vessels that need to be purified, suitably covered, at the credence table on a corporal and to purify them immediately after Mass following the dismissal of the people.”
Well we can never know how many people will recieve; often some people only go up for a blessing; or do not go up at all.
So the Priest will not know for certain how many people will be partaking; so with regards to the bread it is very difficult to calculate accuratly; often people put their own bread in at the beginning; but many forget to do that.
With regards to the wine however; no one is going to get drunk off even a full chalice of wine; as someone who goes to weekday masses where there are only about five people there; it can be very difficult to drink the wine if there is only a drop to go around; as you have to tilt the vessel far back. So often a Priest will put in a moderate amount regardless of the number of people.
As other posters have mentioned; the Priest will devour the remaining hosts and wine; or distribute it to designated people to carry it to the sick; or will carry it to the sick himself. In most parishes most of the time the remaining hosts are eaten.
It would be irreverant to just leave them or get rid of them; as this may allow them to be easily desecrated by people; which is unnacceptable. As a side note; if any are uneatable (ie; dropped etc.) they are often dissolved in water and poured somewhere respectful (like flowers).
As John Liburne has posted, () it wouldn’t really be correct to consume the remainder of the Blessed Sacrament on the way back to the altar, it is to be consumed at the altar.
There is another possibility - that the priest was consuming a Host which had either fallen to the floor, or had only partially been consumed . Although a priest is never obliged ( there are also other respectful ways of dealing with accidents with the sacred species when they occur) to consume a Host which has fallen to the floor or only been partially consumed by a communicant, most of the priests I know, do… It’s an act of reverence and an act of faith towards Who is there in the consecrated host.
However, in canon law they usually hold to a principle where one is never asked to go beyond their own point of natural repugnance as long as that point is not an inordinate one.
I believe the Orthodox may be more strict in this area where they prescribe any and all of the consacrated species which falls to the floor should be consumed by the minister.
Maybe one of our members more knowledgeable about Eastern Rite and Orthodox customs could enlighten us on that one.
If there is no disrespect intended, :blackeye: may I suggest that , since this thread is in the Liturgy and Sacraments Forum, we refer to the sacred species as either “consacrated wine” or “Precious Blood” please ?
Our bulkier ushers end the communion line and very kindly receive from the cups held by the smallest ministers, so that nobody has to consume more than s/he can handle.
I do feel for the deacon some days, though! It may be the Precious Blood, but the accidents of wine remain, and those can be very uncomfortable!
I once saw the deacon practically chowing down at the tabernacle after Mass. He is a good friend and I was extremely curious, so I asked what on earth he was doing. Turns out the nearby campus center had ended Masses for the summer a week or two previously and delivered off their ciborium into our tabernacle. The hosts were terribly stale and the deacon realized that it would be inappropriate to distribute them during our Masses, so the only other option was to consume them. Poor guy
I think the people who responded to this thread missed something:
He was eating while walking back to the altar.
I think that is a problem. I mean, if he was eating it like popcorn and strolling around, there’s a lot of chance for spilling, crumbs falling, etc… He should wait until he is at the altar if he is going to consume the hosts.