Purifying the chalice

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I have a complete, total aversion to purifying the chalices after so many people drink from them. My understanding is that communion ministers may consume the remaining Precious Blood but that I as a priest have to do the final purification. I also understand that many priests do not do any of the purification of the Chalices.

This is not a challenge to the practice one way or the other. Just wanting to know if it is permissible to have lay people do the whole thing. At this time, I do not offer the Precious Blood to parishioners. Of course, there are complaints, and I sympathize. So what is possible?


A:  Well, the rules call for a bishop, priest, deacon or acolyte to purify vessels. But you raise an interesting dynamic. What if the only person permitted to do this at a particular mass cannot because of some sincere difficulty? Should that impede the people from receiving from the chalice, which the church encourages them to do?

You may find a lifeline in the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, paragraph 54. http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/norms-for-holy-communion-under-both-kinds/. That paragraph deals with a different situation – bringing communion to the sick under the form of wine. The paragraph concludes with this statement: “If some of the Precious Blood remains after the sick person has received Communion, it should be consumed by the minister, who should also see to it that the vessel is properly purified.”

In this case, “properly purified” cannot mean bringing the vessel back to the parish church for the priest to take care of it. It surely means that the communion minister is expected to purify the vessel. Thus, there is a circumstance where a layperson properly purifies. From this, you could extrapolate that the value of having people at mass receive the Blood of Christ outweighs the value of not offering them the cup at all due to the priest’s difficulty – and that therefore the extraordinary minister of holy communion could purify the vessels in this case.

But you will find plenty of people who disagree with me.