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Consuming the Host at the End of a Procession

Date: June 27, 2021
Author: Fr. E

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Is it permissible to consume the Blessed Sacrament after it has been used in a procession, even when it arrives at a location (with an empty tabernacle) where Mass is going to be celebrated? -- C.W., West Palm Beach, Florida

A: I would wish to broaden the question a little to include public adoration, as a Eucharistic procession is just one form of public exposition.

The question as to whether it is possible to consume the host after a procession or period of exposition is negative. I cannot offer an official prohibition because, as far as I know, nobody has yet brought this question to the Holy See. However, a simple interpretation of current laws would exclude it.

First of all, consuming a host after a period of adoration is equivalent to receiving Communion outside of Mass. Since the question implies that the person consuming the host is the priest, or maybe a deacon, this would usually be a second Communion. Canon Law (Can. 917) allows for a second Communion only within the celebration of Mass, and this norm would also apply to priests and deacons who are administrators, not owners, of the Church’s greatest treasure.

A possible exception could be when a minister, who has celebrated or attended Mass or will do so later, brings Communion to the sick and there are hosts left over that must be consumed. In such cases, it would still be preferable to give some of the faithful two hosts rather than the minister’s consuming them.

Another exception would be in time of persecution in which it is necessary to swiftly consume the reserved hosts so as to prevent desecration. Such situations serve to highlight the fact that consuming a host outside of the rites of Communion is not a normal procedure.

Another way of approaching the question is by looking at the Church’s official rites for processions and exposition. These rites are found in the third chapter of the ritual book Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, entitled “Forms of Worship of the Holy Eucharist,” Nos. 82-100. The rites foreseen are: exposition, adoration, Benediction, and reposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

If it is not possible to organize things in such a way that all the proper rites will take place with due reverence, veneration and respect towards the Blessed Sacrament, then the exposition or procession should not take place.

In the case that our reader mentioned in which a procession arrives at a place where there is an approved tabernacle and Mass is to be celebrated, then the correct procedure is to reserve the host used for the procession and then distribute it during communion at Mass.

The permission for a tabernacle must be granted by the local bishop who is the proper authority on such questions (See Canons 934-944). Without this authorization, no reservation and hence no exposition or processions can lawfully take place.

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