Need clarification regarding when the purifying of the sacred vessels can take place

My question is if mass is celebrated by a priest and a deacon, and the priest lets the deacon distribute holy communion from the chalice which was removed from the tabernacle, is the priest allowed to purified the other vessels and the alter while the deacon distributes communion? The reason I’m asking I have never witness this happening before in the 58 years I have been Catholic. As per the Vatican website it is suppose to be done after communion or after mass. Is this open for interpretation?


Chapter V

( section 3 Sacred Vessels, paragraph 119 & 279)

[119.] [119.] The Priest, once he has returned to the altar after the distribution of Communion, standing at the altar or at the credence table, purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice in accordance with the prescriptions of the Missal and wipes the chalice with the purificator. Where a Deacon is present, he returns with the Priest to the altar and purifies the vessels. It is permissible, however, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them, covered as may be appropriate, on a corporal on the altar or on the credence table, and for them to be purified by the Priest or Deacon immediately after Mass once the people have been dismissed.

"279. The sacred vessels are purified by the Priest, the Deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass

Welcome to Catholic Answers Forums. I don’t know the answer to your question, but suggest that you ask the priest (not at/after Mass, but maybe call or email him). It’s a good question.

First of all, I doubt the “chalice was removed from the tabernacle”. In fact it would be remarkable if any Catholics are distributing Holy Communion under the species of wine in these days of COVID-19.

It would seem expedient to purify some vessels that are no longer needed for the distribution of Holy Communion, and to finish the purification after the distribution is over, eventually attending to all the vessels that have been used in the Mass. If this is what’s happening, I don’t see a problem. There is no particular reason for them to hold off on the purification until the distribution is completely done.

In our parish, the deacon is often the one roaming the church, distributing Holy Communion to people who cannot walk well. Or it is an EMHC. Therefore, there are a few vessels that will always be “late to the party” as far as purification is concerned. Father doesn’t wait.

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After communion does not need to be strictly interpreted as after everyone has received. It is quite routine in most churches I’ve ever been in that the “clean up” begins when the first minister finishes and continues until the last one finishes.

There are a couple of points to clarify here:

  1. Purification is the rinsing of vessels with water that is consumed by the priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte. That consumption never has happened in my experience until all have finished distribution of communion. Thus, I wouldn’t consider purification to be happening during communion.

  2. The deacon doesn’t need to be allowed by the priest to distribute communion; that is his role per his ordination.

  3. It’s not a chalice but a ciborium that holds the Eucharist in the tabernacle.


During COVID-19 we are distributing Holy Communion by going to the congregation and communing the faithful in their pews.

Every other pew is vacant to allow this and to provide social distancing.

Whoever finishes first and returns to the Altar begins purifying the vessels (priest or deacon).

And, as mentioned before, the chalice-looking container (which has a matching lid) is actually a ciborium, a container for consecrated hosts.

Whenever a deacon is present, he should go to the Tabernacle, both before and after Holy Communion, and should purify the vessels.

Deacons are custodians of Holy Communion, both to the faithful in Church, and those who cannot come to Mass. (This is why both deacons and priests take viaticum to the dying).

This responsibility is highlighted during diaconal ordinations, and harkens to the fact that deacons were prefigured by Levites in the Old Testament, who had charge of the Ark of the Covenant, protecting it, carrying it, and surrounding it with song.

Deacon Christopher


I’m assuming that you mean that the priest doesn’t distribute the Eucharist at all to the congregation, and lets the deacon distribute it by himself?

This can happen when the priest is infirm and unable to get around. But, for a priest who simply chooses not to distribute the Eucharist? Hmm…

And, as others have noted, does he continue to purify once the deacon is finished distributing – that is, of the ciborium that the deacon has used, if it’s empty?

Except during a pandemic, you mean, right? As in “if only the priest consumes from the chalice, then the deacon shouldn’t be consuming the water used during purification of the chalice”, no?

I could see this as one reason why the priest might purify, although I have to admit, I’m not sure why he’s not distributing communion…

Even during the pandemic I have drunk from the chalice, and purified the vessels, the whole time.

In some parishes, the priests are intincting, but not at ours; both the priest and deacon drink from the chalice at every Mass.

In my Ukrainian parish, the concelebrants were intincting for a while; but now we are back to consuming the Lamb and Blood separately.

And, at Divine Liturgy, the deacon consumes everything in the chalice afterwards, all the pieces of the Lamb, and all the Precious Blood.

Deacon Christopher

From the same chalice?


Yes, same chalice, but only the two of us drinking from it.

We also work together everyday (in the same set of offices) and spend lots of time together.

It’s not like a different priest each week.

Somehow, “drinking from the same cup” doesn’t sound like ‘social distancing’ to me. :man_shrugging:

It’s not, and we don’t between the two of us - like I just explained we work together in close quarters and spend lots of time together, not socially-distanced.

Very similar to members of the same family.

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The threat of disease and contagion has been a constant threat throughout all of human history. It doesn’t make any difference now that we know well the mechanisms for the spread of a virus, in the context of intimate relationships. We are human beings who touch and feel and eat and drink and breathe and excrete. Would you scold a mother for changing her baby’s diaper? Would you give a dirty look to a husband for kissing his wife? A brother and sister holding hands? Why then this disdain for clergy living out their vocation?

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It depends. Is it in the context of an unchecked pandemic which is spread by such contact?

In the current context, social distancing is being asked of those from different households, in order to prevent the spread of COVID from one family to another.

Because “drinking out of the same chalice” isn’t “living out their vocation”, per se. Rather, it’s taking chances. What if someone from Deacon Christopher’s family has COVID but is asymptomatic, or vice versa? Then, they’re risking spreading the virus to the other’s family.

Is that really what “living out their vocation” means? It sounds – to my ears, at least – closer to playing a game of “chicken” with the virus… :man_shrugging:


They’re everywhere. And they’re destructive.

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