Holding the Host


There is a (respectful) disagreement between some priests of my acquaintance about whether or not it is necessary to hold the host when consecrating. Before we write to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with a dubium, could anyone here shed any light on whether it has already been answered? It will have to be an authoritative decision rather than opinion as we already have entrenched opinion from qualified liturgists on both sides, what we’re looking for is an answer from the Vatican.

The missal states that, during the consecration of the bread, the priest:
“[T]akes the bread and, holding it slightly raised above the altar, continues”

So, most priests take one of the hosts (usually the large host) in their hands and hold it, separate from the other hosts which remain in the ciboria.

The question is whether it is licit:
a) to hold the ciborium above the altar in such as way as the celebrant’s hands touch the outside of the ciborium/paten but not the bread?

b) to hold the ciborium/paten above the altar so that all the hosts are raised, but in such a way that the celebrant’s thumb and forefinger are also touching one of the hosts?

Thank you for any insights on whether this question has been addressed.


I have only ever seen priests raise one host. I would be amazed if I saw the ciborium being raised.


Why would priests rely on information about liturgical issues and rubrics relayed to them by a layperson who is consulting an online forum of miscellaneous anonymous members, mainly laypeople?

The priests should consult with their bishop(s) to get the correct answer, and obey him. I’m wondering why they do not do this.


Do laypeople even have “standing” to contact the Congregation on such matters of rubrics and celebration of the Sacraments?


Did they all go to the same seminary? :confused:


…I’d say absolutely not, no.


Rubrics are universal. Your post does sound to me like several do it differently from the way we SEE it done in our parishes. (in the USA).
You need a Bishop on your own turf to address this, definitively.


Even in the various different Western Rites, and even in the various different forms of Mass used throughout history, I’ve never heard of ANYBODY holding up a ciborium during the Consecration.

What you do get is a lot of different ways to set out the ciborium on the altar during the Consecration, or the Mozarabic thing where they would lay out the hosts in a cross shape, or giant hosts that were fractured and then laid out in a certain pattern. There have also been times where people were raising the host so high at the Consecration that they got told off. But they were still holding up just one naked host during the Consecration.

Breaking away from holding the Host is a Really Big Deal, because it breaks away from the most ancient priestly traditions in the West.

Now, there are various Eastern Rites where the entirety of the eucharistic prayers are regarded as the Consecration, so this isn’t a question. They do things differently, and good for them. But if you’re not saying Mass in one of those Rites, you can’t really use their example. Apples and oranges are both fruits; but you don’t eat an orange by chomping down without peeling it, and you don’t eat an apple by pulling apart its sections.

So in re: holding onto the ciborium like it’s trying to get away, or raising it up like a big bucket you’re going to dump on somebody, I can’t really see where this would even come into play!

(Unless you’re talking a concelebration where the priest is standing out in a crowd somewhere, and the main celebrant is intending to consecrate all the hosts on the altar and all the hosts out in the crowd. But if that’s the case, the concelebrant out in the crowd should be listening to his instructions from his bishop and from the Vatican on concelebration, not a bunch of us on the forum.)

It sounds to me like these priests are having a weird aversion to the old rules about the host being held in your thumb and forefinger, at the exact time when laypeople are being asked to take Communion in the hand ALL THE TIME. Do they think they are less priestly than laypeople? Seriously???

If priests are going to shy off touching the host with their actually consecrated hands – the very hands which were anointed to the service of the Lord – then either they are germ freaks or they distrust their priesthood. If God’s gifts particular to the priesthood aren’t good enough for them, they are really in need of our prayers, because they were badly taught or are suffering a crisis of faith.

(But if you don’t understand why you’re doing something, you look it up, and then you keep doing what the Church does. You don’t just say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve decided to say Mass wearing giant Nomex firefighter gloves so that I won’t have to wash my hands,” or even, “Because I’ve decided it will remind people not to go to Hell.” You’re supposed to want to do what the Church does, not just make stuff up. It’s a violation of the Church’s rights, including the rights of your parishioners to have a real Mass.)

I hope I haven’t been too harsh here, but it’s a shocking thing to want to do.


FWIW, this doesn’t affect the validity of the consecration.



Well, I’m glad that it doesn’t count as a defect from that document (probably because nobody had even tried holding up the ciborium). But there is one rule that seems applicable:

“24. If the priest thinks that he is holding one host but discovers after the Consecration that there were two hosts stuck together, he is to consume both when the time comes.”

So by analogy, it would seem that the priest would have to consume every host in the ciborium if he holds it up. If his intention is really the same as holding up a host, then it is all one host and he has to eat it.

(And if his intention isn’t the same as holding up one host, then he shouldn’t be holding up the ciborium, should he?)


Actually, though, it might count as a defect anyway, as there’s a catch-all rubric at the end:

“46. Defects may occur in the celebration of the rite itself also if the priest does not know the rites and ceremonies to be observed, all of which have been fully described in the above rubrics.”

Doesn’t say for sure, because it would depend on the specific mess-up that was occurring. But you notice that they assume that no priest would knowingly fail to do exactly what the rubrics say. Obviously they were optimistic, back in the day.

There’s also a rule showing that the priest should be concerned about not causing scandal to the congregation, even with something that doesn’t affect validity.

  1. If before the Consecration the host is found to be broken, it is to be consecrated anyway,* unless the people can see plainly that it is broken.* But if there may be scandal for the people, another host is to be taken and offered. If the broken host has already been offered, the priest is to consume it after the ablution. If the host is seen to be broken before the offerings however, another complete host is to be taken, if this can be done without scandal and without a long delay.


Interesting observations.



I have no knowledge of any “official” statement on this. Granted, the law says that he takes bread, not takes a host. And, granted, the rubrics do not still include the direction to take the bread between the index fingers/thumbs. Nevertheless, the rubric plainly says that the priest takes “bread”, not a paten, not a ciborium. As Bishop Elliott says, the priest is supposed to be imitating the action of the Lord at the Last Supper (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, paragraph 299: “He does not take the paten or a ciborium into his hands.”)

Besides, the priest is supposed to “show the Host” to the people immediately after saying the words of consecration. If he’s not holding It already, he’d have to put the paten/ciborium down, pick up the Host, and show the people. That doesn’t really make much sense to me.



Just out of curiosity, who are the “we” referred to above?


The authoritative document is readily available. It’s the Roman Missal.

At the consecration, the priest “takes the bread” not the paten nor the ciborium. He takes the bread (ie host). It’s very clear.

Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, some priests do not follow the Roman Missal. :shrug:


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