Unusual way to distribute Holy Communion

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I ended up at a different church from my usual parish. I should explain first of all that I tend to prefer the more traditional approaches in all things liturgical while it was obvious that the church I attended preferred more “contemporary” approaches.

While there were many “strange and wondrous” aspects to this Mass, mostly I was curious about something that I had seen occur at one other church:

At Communion time, the priest and the deacon distributed the Hosts. At their right, a layperson (there were two adult altar servers but as I recall they stayed in their seats), held a plate (sorry, not sure of the correct term for the plate (not a ciborium) that holds the Hosts) containing the Hosts. As each person came up to receive, the priest or deacon said, “The Body of Christ” at the same time reaching for a Host from the plate held by this layperson and placed the Host in the person’s hand (or in my case, on the tongue).

As far as I could tell, there was nothing physically wrong with the priest or deacon that they could not hold the plate themselves. In my cynical mind, this practice made the whole thing seemed more like “Trick or Treat” rather than receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord.

As I said, I had seen this happen only one other time, again at a more “contemporary” parish. What would be reason for having a layperson hold the plate of Hosts at Communion time? Again, I’m cynical and a traditionalist by nature. I wonder if it could be a way to discourage Communion on the tongue or something?

Any light that could be shed on this would be appreciated. Thanks and God bless.

only to comment that many other posters with a traditional mindset would rather see this practice, so I guess it comes down to personal prerference, not the best guide to liturgy in any case. Your terminology is confusing. If you mean plate, it is a platen and the lay server should be holding it under the communicants chin as he receives. If you mean a shallow bowl holding several hosts, it is the ciborium, and I am not aware of any reason a lay server could not hold it. I will await enlightenment from more knowledgeable posters.

The plate sounds like a patten which is used to prevent ‘Crumbz o’ Christ’ (so to speak) from falling to the ground.

The word is ‘paten’, I believe.

It would be very unusual for a paten to be used for Hosts, as there would be the danger of them sliding off.

Conversely, if it were being used for the proper task of being put under someone’s chin if they were receiving COTT, a paten wouldn’t have Hosts already on it.

A mystery indeed.

Originaly (1st millenium) the paten was used to distribute communion


The use started in 1964 again

Just as a matter of curiosity, was this “plate” flat or was it more concave like what is sometimes called a soup-plate? Did it have a handle (or handles) of any sort? Did it have a base of any kind?

All of our parishes use something that’s kind of a cross between a paten and a ciborium. It is not concave, but rather flat on the bottom all the way across. It is not, however, level across the top, like a paten, but has a “dip” in it where the center is set in approx. 1/2 an inch and then flat across approximately 1 inch in from the outer diameter of the plate. Kind of like a mini charger for a dinner plate. The hosts go in the recessed area. There are no handles or base.

Perhaps this is what the OP saw? I’m just trying to help as I see them every week when I take my son up to be blessed.

Yes, HAnne, it sounds like you and I are describing the same thing.

It was not a ciborium as I think of one (a sort of large goblet-shaped vessel), nor was it a paten (my sons were altar servers so I know what that is). The items used in the case I described were plates, like a dinner plate – not flat across, slightly dipped in the middle. The lay person held it while the priest/deacon reached into it for the Hosts. There was no paten used.

Sorry for my lack of clarity. I know what a ciborium is and I know what the paten is. I just didn’t know if there was a specific name for the item I’m trying to describe.

OK, now I think I’ve got it. It sounds like it was one or another modern style ciborium (which seems to be called a “bread tray” ). This site shows a few designs (particularly toward the bottom of the page).

@Malphono, thanks for posting the link.
Yes, I guess the closest thing to what I’m describing is the bread tray. (I don’t know if it had the etching on it or not.

I guess my issue is not the type of ciboria used but I don’t understand the the need to have someone simply stand there holding it while the priest/deacon/extraordinary minister of the Eucharist distributes from it. It seemed rather pointless to me (as I said, both priest and deacon seemed perfectly able bodied).

No clue on that end. Our priest or extraordinary ministers hold them themselves here when distributing. Glad I was able to help you a bit with the description…no clue on the other side.

One thought I did have was carpal tunnel (as I personally have had issues with it). It can make trying to hold something like that VERY painful for more than a few seconds. It also wouldn’t be easily visible to an observer.

At the Benedictine university I attended they had monks hold the ciborum, while other monks distributed. But they used thick heavy bread that had to be torn apart for which they used 2 hands. If these were normal hosts, it does seem pretty pointless, but maybe the silly flat design, makes it uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time and the priests are afraid of dropping them.

The Paten isn’t used much anymore. It was, as was said, used to collect any particles of the Host from falling on the floor. The Paten was discontinued by many churches after the Host became a wafer instead of pieces of bread. The Consecrated bread did give off particles that would fall on the floor where the Consecrated Wafer does not.

I saw a similar distribution at Ascension in a Catholic church in Bologna, Italy some years ago. It was a large congregation and a cardinal was present. Servers were in a number of stations along the center aisle. To the best of my memory ,there were at least eight servers in the aisle. Those receiving first communion went to the altar rail. The entire service was in Italian, so I did not catch a lot of what was going on.

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