Q: I’ve often wondered at what point it becomes too late to bring more hosts to the altar for consecration.
There is always a balance to be achieved between having enough consecrated hosts in the tabernacle and having too many. Some pastors are liberal in this, while others are conservative.
Occasionally, the pleasant surprise of an unexpected crowd at Mass has caused some anxiety over whether the consecrated hosts in the tabernacle, in addition to the hosts set out to be consecrated at Mass, would be enough to distribute to everyone. There have been a very few times when the ministers have resorted to breaking hosts for the final few communicants.
If people continue to arrive at Mass throughout the readings and homily – and the priest comes to suspect the hosts may run short – at what point does it become too late to bring another ciborium of hosts to the altar? I realize there’s a point where, liturgically, the consecration has passed. I’m wondering if there’s a point before the actual consecration at which all hosts to be consecrated must be on the altar.
Also, in your opinion, which might offend one’s sensibilities more: the sight of someone bringing another ciborium to the altar – or seeing ministers breaking hosts during Communion?
All hosts are to be brought to the altar during the procession of the gifts. There they are placed upon the altar top, representing the sacrificial offering of the entire assembly. The purpose of that part of the Mass is the “preparation of the gifts,” so no additional “unprepared” hosts should be brought to the altar after that. (I once witnessed a pastor rushing to the sacristy to bring more hosts to the altar while the bishop was completing the preface and the people sang the Holy, Holy, Holy. That just should not be done.)
GIRM 85 encourages the people to receive communion from hosts consecrated at the same Mass, so if breaking hosts gives them communion from the altar, that is better than having them receive communion from the tabernacle.