Communion vessels

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  On a recent post regarding the use of patens I was unclear what was being referred to as the “paten”.  In the past I only knew the paten to be what the altar server used to hold under the chin of someone receiving communion.  In recent years I see the term paten referred to the vessel containing the Host on the altar.  Do both items still carry the same name?  Thank You and God Bless


A:  The word “paten” is used in various ways. It generally means the small metal plate upon which the priest’s host may rest for the mass. However, it is also used for larger vessels containing many hosts for the distribution of communion. It is indeed also used for the plate that the altar server holds under the chin of someone receiving communion. When I was an altar boy, that was the paten. Today that vessel is called the “communion-plate” – probably to distinguish it from the paten that the priest uses.

But I hear different terms. Sometimes I’ve heard “bowls” for the vessels that hold many hosts – because that’s what they look like. And even though the General Instruction on the Roman Missal uses “communion-plate” (hyphen and everything – 49, 118, and 287) for what the server holds, a lot of people still call it the paten, and very few call it the communion-plate.