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“Ask a Priest: What If I Find Fragments on the Paten After Mass?”
Q: I have been helping to clean up after the Mass (removing the vessels from the altar, washing them and putting things away). I have noticed at times that there are many fragments of the Eucharist remaining on the paten. I am not allowed to purify these vessels as I am not an acolyte and am a woman. I have been consuming the remains. I sincerely want to do the will of God and also respect our priests. I know that we are never to criticize them. I also discovered that the sink used in our church drains into the sewer. This is an added concern to me. Do you have any guidance? – K.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Your concern about the Eucharistic fragments is admirable.
A priest or deacon or an instituted acolyte (a lay ministry which, along with the ministry of lector, Pope Francis has opened up to women as well) is supposed to purify the vessels at or after Mass. This includes, of course, the paten, or metal plate, on which the priest consecrates the large host.
If the vessels are not purified correctly – for instance, if there are particles still visible on the paten — it would be good to mention this to the pastor.
While your intention in consuming the particles is good, that really should be done by a priest or deacon at the purification. If a minister isn’t immediately available, the particles should be reverently placed in a bowl with water and allowed to dissolve. After 15 minutes or so, the water should then be poured reverently into a sacrarium or into the gardens, over soil.
A sacrarium is a “special sink used for the reverent disposal of sacred substances. This sink has a cover, a basin, and a special pipe and drain that empty directly into the earth, rather than into the sewer system” (Built of Living Stones, No. 236).
You mention that the sink in the church goes into the sewer. In that case, anything remotely connected with particles of the consecrated host or with the Precious Blood should never be poured down the drain.
If a sacrarium is not available, any water that dissolved or diluted traces of the Eucharist or Precious Blood should be poured reverently into the gardens.
If you think people are pouring or dumping any of the host or Precious Blood down a sewer-bound sink, it would be good to notify the pastor. And if nothing changes, you might consider contacting the chancery.
For a reference you might check the policy of the Diocese of Dallas on purification of vessels.
I hope some of this helps.
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