Why the Communion Paten?

Something that has almost universally disappeared over the years is the Communion Paten or plate. I do not even remember the use of the Communion Paten at my 1st Communion in May of 1969. Change had already come to St. Anthony’s in Woonsocket. I believe it was the transitional Mass, there was a free standing altar with the priest facing the congregation (the high altar had been smashed by then), no longer an altar rail (we sat all over the church and came forward with out families at any time during communion in a modern Communion line), and there was no Communion Plate. I can remember my 1st Holy Communion very clearly. I was wearing a blue suitCommunion Paten, and when the priest said: “The Body of Christ,” I responded: “The Body of Christ.” But that’s off topic.

I did not see the Communion Plate until I entered the Franciscans in Kennebunkport, ME in 1983. They were used at every Mass. However, after leaving the Franciscans, I never saw them again, so I just assumed they were suppressed or something.

On 25 March 2004, Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments came out with Redemptionis Sacramentum. The document dealt with various issues and abuses related to the celebration of Mass.

Paragraph #93 reads:

The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling. [180]

[180] is a footnote to the Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 118.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal reads:

118. The following are also to be prepared:

3. On the credence table: the chalice, a corporal, a purificator, and, if appropriate, the pall; the paten and, if needed, ciboria; bread for the Communion of the priest who presides, the deacon, the ministers, and the people; cruets containing the wine and the water, unless all of these are presented by the faithful in procession at the Offertory; the vessel of water to be blessed, if the asperges occurs; the Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful; and whatever is needed for the washing of hands.

I always liked the use of the Communion Paten, but never used them because I knew the stigma that would follow. “He’s a traditionalist, rigid, still living in Trent.” After reading this, I instituted the use of the Communion Paten at all Masses at Holy Ghost. It only makes sense if we believe in the Real Presence as taught by the Church.

“the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated” [Trent Session XIII, Canon III]

Some people would say “this is such a small thing, there are much bigger issues in life to worry about.” I would posit that this is wrong. Small things become big with time. Recent polls suggest that 70% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. If this is the case, we are in big trouble. We can never do enough to help foster and teach the truth of the Church’s belief in the Real Presence. Catholic faith is centered on the Eucharist. If people reject this tenet of the Faith, everything else is up for grabs. One small thing we can do to increase Eucharistic faith is the reintroduction of the Communion Paten. Because if we priests show our love and reverence for even the smallest particles of the Sacred Host, that faith will impress on the hearts of our people.

13 thoughts on “Why the Communion Paten?

  1. Happily, at our parish, Queen of Peace, in Hawley, Pa, we do use the Communion Paten at all Sunday Masses when there is two altar servers. Sadly, they don’t always show up to serve Mass. As deacon, I do the servers part but also distribute Holy Communion too. Thanks for this post, Fr. Jay!

  2. I would also like to commend our priests in Skopje, Macedonia, who are well aware of the importance of keeping the Holy Communion safe from falling and insist on using the Communion Paten during every Mass. Thank you Father for keeping the faith alive!

  3. We use Communion patens in my parish at Sunday Mass; the pastor admitted it was partly to give the altar servers something to do! I’m afraid the kids would freak if they actually had to try to catch a dropped Host, something I’ve never seen happen. But in reference to the Real Presence, I believe you mean “this tenet” of our faith: tenants generally pay rent. Sorry, I’m a compulsive proofreader.

  4. If 90% of the congregation receives in the hand as in my parish, there is little need for the paten. A few of us receive on the tongue, and even genuflect, but were we to kneel, we’d probably have a pileup behind us. Good for you, Father.

  5. One time I was altar serving at my parish. I found some communion plates and thought I would use one in assisting the priest at communion. I was actually scolded during Mass. “We don’t use those. We don’t use those here.” I thought the old priest was going to have a heart attack.

  6. Still used at the Novus Ordo parish where my two sons take turns serving daily Mass. Unfortunately, a retired priest in residence never purifies the paten after Holy Communion or after Mass — he says because they use “flakeless hosts”. Sigh.

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