Handling Sacred Vessels

Our parish has a person who trains the altar servers, and she has told them that the main chalice is always to be picked up by itself, without a second item, and with both hands. For the altar servers, so far, so good.

She went on to say that the adult sacristans are wrong when they pick up a ciborium in one hand and the main chalice in the other hand, because the main chalice is never to be picked up together with any other item. She is teaching that this is somehow disrespectful to the main chalice.

Mind you, she does not have a problem with the altar servers picking up the common chalices two at a time–I mean when they are full of wine that is yet to be conscecrated for general distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful.

With regards to whether these have to be carried one at a time or may be carried one in each hand, is there any regulation or practice that a) treats the main chalice differently than any other sacred vessel that holds the Precious Blood or that b) treats a chalice with greater or different reverence than a ciborium or a paten? I mean something other than the fact that the main chalice is often heavier, or something like that.

I had never heard of anything like this in my life, but I thought that if such a regulation existed, someone here would know about it.

Actually, if there is any contemporary document of the Church that covers this sort of thing, I’d be happy to be directed to it. There so much that someone just made up, I never know what is a real rule from those who have the office of making rules, which is a rule dictated by common sense won by hard experience, and which is inserted into the customs of a particular parish on the authority of someone who just happens to like things done a certain way.

I’m not aware of any stipulations from the Holy See or guidelines from the USCCB on this point (but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist); however, the local bishop can make regulations for his own diocese.

Even if your bishop hasn’t laid down local regulations, handling the chalice and ciborium separately and with both hands is a very good idea, both out of respect, and to avoid the danger of dropping them. The chalice and ciborium are the most sacred vessels of all, containing the very body and blood of our Lord. It would be sacrilegious to treat them as ordinary objects, or to drop them out of carelessness, and unfitting for them to have dents or blemishes. As a practical matter they can be very expensive to replace.

I’m sure there is a misunderstanding about whether it is right or wrong to pick up both or one at a time. It is not a matter of disrespect of a sacred vessel.

We do the same at our parish. I train both children and adult servers and am a sacristan. Children pick up one at a time so they don’t drop them. Adult altar servers and sacristans can pick up one at a time or two at a time according to the needs of the moment.

I carry everything from the sacristy to the credence table before Mass and back again after Mass on a large serving tray - chalice set, cups, purificators, ciboria, water and wine cruets, pitcher, flagon… all of it on a tray. How is that disrespectful?


The only “rule” I know of that existed till relatively recently, is that the sacred vessels could be touched by no one who is not a subdeacon. If acolytes had to handle the vessels for some reason, they wore white cloth gloves.

Today, aside from the obvious prohibition against desecrating sacred objects, there appears to be no rule whatsoever governing the handling of sacred vessels. So it sounds made up to me.

I remember as an altar boy in the 50’s, we couldn’t even touch the tabernacle KEY if it were still in the tabernacle lock. We’ve come a ways…

I have heard that the rule used to be that only someone with major orders could normally touch the chalice or the paten, inside the Mass or outside of the Mass, although a layperson could touch a ciborium. Our parish doesn’t even* use* a paten, excepting what the catalogs sometimes call a paten-ciborium.

My concern is that if, as part of teaching altar servers how to do things, you’re going to be correcting the way lectors or extraordinary ministers or sacristans or anyone else carrying out some duty for the pastor have been doing things, and telling the altar servers that those people aren’t doing it the right way, people that are not under your jurisdiction nor the work of the altar servers to correct, you had better be 100% right.

Even if you are right, there are definite diplomacy problems. If you’re wrong, that may fall under the serious heading of detraction. If you are right and yet choose to refrain from saying anything to the altar servers about how people you don’t train and don’t have the standing to correct ought to be doing things, I’m not sure what harm is done by that.

I don’t know for sure, but always suspected, that the gloves were a requirement imposed by the sisters, who didn’t want the job of removing our grubby fingerprints. :wink:

Nope; it’s because the servers weren’t subdeacons. You will still see this practice in FSSP apostolates.

Does anyone know of a rule where in a situation where EMsHC are used, the main chalice must always be handled alone and with both hands, but the chalices for common distribution and all other sacred vessels may be handled one in each hand? If so, when does this apply, starting from when Mass is set up and ending when the sacred vessels are locked up afterwards?

Does such a rule exist? :shrug:

That’s just it. I don’t think such a rule exists, which is why it sounds made up to me, probably on some “liturgist”'s whim. I’d be glad to be corrected if I’m wrong.

Of course—and this is just me— I’d prefer that there be a reinstatement of the old rule that only a subdeacon handle the sacred vessels. The corollary is that there should also be a reinstatement of the subdiaconate too. But again, that’s just a tangent, and just me.

I don’t see any reason to distinguish between the main chalice and the other vessels.

I don’t know any rules on this, but always am distressed to see sacred vessels gathered up like a bunch of dirty dishes. If more than one is to be carried, I would prefer to see them placed on a tray.

There are no rules dictating with how many hands you must handle Sacred Vessels.

The bottom line is that they should be treated respectfully. They are not play things, and they are frequently in contact with the Blessed Sacrament. As long as someone is being respectful and careful, I’d think the “spirit of the law” is being fulfilled.

Being careful and respectful in the treatment of sacred vessels is, to be sure, a good and noble thing. However, there is no official teaching on how many hands must be used, or anything of the sort.

I’m glad that the woman at the OP’s parish is doing a thorough job, but perhaps is a bit overzealous.

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