Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Capuchin Father Cornelius Murphy was elderly and retired from the pastor's job in the 1970s.  Instead, he was an assistant at my parish and was given strictly sacramental duties; Mass, confessions, communion calls and responso or prayers for the dead.

He was completely old school.  Unlike the other priests, he carried a veiled chalice with him in his hands as we processed from the sacristy to the altar.  When we accompanied him to a responso in the home of the deceased, we knew we'd be there for a long time; his prayers for the dead were very long compared to the other priests.

One evening at Mass, a Host fell as he was giving communion.  He stopped communion and picked up the Host and consumed It.  Then he asked one of the altar boys to bring him a purificator, one of the linen towels used for Mass.


When he was given the purificator, he put it on the spot where the Host had fallen.  He then continued giving communion, but people were conscious not to step on the purificator.

Right after Mass, Father Cornelius went to the spot with a cruet of water and, on his knees, poured a little water on the floor and wiped it dry with the purificator.

Another priest came in and asked what happened.  When we explained it to him (a much younger priest), his reaction gave us the impression he thought Father Cornelius went overboard in his concern for the fallen Host.

But the visual impact never left me and I felt there was something totally right about what Father Cornelius did.  It's what I do now when a Host unfortunately falls to the floor.  If Father Cornelius' action impressed me many years ago with a concrete example of reverence for the Real Presence, if I do the same today, perhaps I might make the same impression on others.

Traditional Rules

In the 1962 Missal, there is a chapter in the rules for Mass concerning defects that can occur, mostly by accident, in the Mass.  When it comes to a Host falling to the ground or floor, the rules state that the priest is to pick up the Host reverently, then pour some water on the spot and dry it with a purificator.  (De Defectibus, no. 45)

1970 Missal

The rules after the Second Vatican Council tell the priest to pick up the Host reverently if It should fall to the ground or floor, but there is nothing further said.  If the Precious Blood should spill on the floor or ground, then that area should be washed with water and the water be poured into the sacrarium, the special sink in the sacristy which empties into the ground. (GIRM no. 280)

1 comment:

  1. The first description stated was what I know to be the practice. Although I never witness one such incident knowing this made me view the host and receiving Holy Communion as being a sacred act of reverence to the cause of Jesus death for us.