Purification Directives

Naturally, we’re way ahead of the curve on this, but just so you know, one midwest diocese is on the ball with the end of the purification indult:

Directives for the Diocese of Kansas City –
St. Joseph concerning the purification of sacred vessels after Holy Communion

With the expiration of the indult permitting the purification of sacred vessels by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, many parishes will need to implement new procedures.  

Vessels are to be purified only by a bishop, priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte.  

The diocesan directives (disseminated in April 2005) with regard to purification are as follows:  

XX. Purification of Vessels after Communion  

a. When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself assisted, if appropriate, by the deacon, GIRM 183) immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that remains; when there are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, they may consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution. As for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist. (GIRM 163, Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of
America, 52)

b. Upon returning to the altar, the priest collects any fragments … If the vessels are purified at the altar, they are carried to the credence table by a minister. Nevertheless, it is also permitted, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them suitably covered on a corporal, either at the altar or at the credence table, and to purify them immediately after Mass following the dismissal of the people. (GIRM 163)


These directives conform to both the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and Redemptionis Sacramentum, a subsequent instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  


Purification is described in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal as follows:  

279. The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then drunk by whomever does the purification. The paten is usually wiped clean with the purificator.


The process for purification is described in a bit more detail in Redemptionis Sacramentum:  

119. The Priest, once he has returned to the altar after the distribution of Communion, standing at the altar or at the credence table, purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice in accordance with the prescriptions of the Missal and wipes the chalice with the purificator.

 Where a Deacon is present, he returns with the Priest to the altar and purifies the vessels. It is permissible, however, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them, covered as may be appropriate, on a corporal on the altar or on the credence table, and for them to be purified by the Priest or Deacon immediately after Mass once the people have been dismissed. Moreover a duly instituted acolyte assists the Priest or Deacon in purifying and arranging the sacred vessels either at the altar or the credence table. In the absence of a Deacon, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies, wipes and arranges them in the usual way.


Given that the prevailing practice in many parishes has been for the sacred vessels to be purified at the end of Mass by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion while the priest (and deacon) greet and converse with parishioners as they leave church, the practical application of these directives needs to be considered carefully. This contact with parishioners is important for the relationship between the pastor and his parishioners and should be preserved, if possible.  

With this in mind, priests (and deacons) should reverently purify the sacred vessels at the credence table or the side of the altar immediately following the distribution of Holy Communion, and before the Prayer after Communion. After Mass is concluded, the purified vessels can be transferred to the sacristy to be washed in hot soapy water by others.


While it is strongly recommended that the purification take place immediately, if the priest or deacon chooses to purify vessels after Mass, the vessels should remain on the credence table in the sanctuary, and not be taken unpurified to the sacristy. Every precaution should be taken so that the unpurified vessels are not disturbed, or neglected after Mass  

The date for completion of implementation will be January 7, 2007, Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord. Requests for an implementation date after this date may be sent in writing to Bishop Finn.  

November 29, 2006 The Office of Worship

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgy. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Purification Directives

  1. Eric says:

    I don’t understand the idea behind the wording that seems to indicate a preference for purification at the altar. From my experience, where this has been done, people sit and watch the purification as though it were an imporant ritual.

    If only the priest or deacon can purify (an idiotic rule in my opinion, but if it is the rule, oh well…) it seems preferable they should do this at the credence table if it is done during Mass. This has two benefits to my mind: it removes the act from the central focus of the people and it provides for the period of silence after communion that so many presiders skip. People would then be presented with a short period of real silence, without having some act of the presider to focus on. They might even pray!

    By the way, I must admit that I do not like the term “purification.” It seems to imply that the vessels were somehow contaminated by the Body and Blood of Christ and need purification. And also for the record, I am incredulous that somehow ordination makes one more capable of cleaning a vessel properly. Please! It takes less than five minutes to show someone how to do this. Of course the restorationists are thrilled by this directive for no other reason that they want no lay participation in the liturgy whatsoever, even in such a mundane task, and they look hopefully to this rule to make it more difficult to give the cup to the people, which they also despise.

  2. Gavin says:

    I’m not sure when the indult ends, but shouldn’t this have been an issue when the indult was nearing the end of its life? Like “The indult may or may not be renewed, so consider doing what the GIRM actually says” or something.

    As for Eric’s comments, it’s done at the altar by the priest at my parish, and people don’t really focus on the priest. You really hardly notice it’s being done, and (when there’s not music going) it does constitute a moment of silence for the congregation. Then again, my church reserves the cup for only the priest, accolytes, and EMs, so only 1 is needed. Also, I don’t like the word “purification” for the same reason :P Sounds like something the CDC should be doing!

  3. I hadn’t ever thought about the connotation of the word “purification” in this sense, but you’re both right. Hmm.

    We’ve decided to use the option of … cleaning at the credence table. I’m concerned also about a relatively minor task, though an important one, being raised to some significance. And these days, with every direction from the chancery and Rome being under suspicion by a significant number of lay people, keeping it out of center-view seems the most reverent option of all.

  4. Liam says:

    In Scripture (and even outside of the Jewish and Christian traditions), anything touched by God has to be “purified” to resume the natural state, as it were. It may seem like an archaic use of the term, but it has very deep roots. This is an opportunity to expand our understanding of meaning, normally something progressives champion…

    As for the altar vs. credence table, I don’t think congregations would be as critical. Progressives typically like the focus on actions at the altar, so I would think all else being equal the placement at the altar would be something we’d welcome.

    The document is better written than I’ve come to expect from other chanceries, nicely noting contexts that might otherwise get elided.

  5. Tony says:

    I don’t understand the idea behind the wording that seems to indicate a preference for purification at the altar. From my experience, where this has been done, people sit and watch the purification as though it were an imporant ritual.

    The blood of my Lord and Savior is in those cups. I know that in some churches people have gotten used to washing down “the bread” with “the wine” and they get really testy if that option is taken from them.

    But I don’t like to see the precious blood of my Lord treated irreverently. And placed on a side table next to the sanctuary while the priest engages in “fellowship” seems a bit over the top to me. Jesus has not left the building until all of the remnants of the precious blood are cleansed from the cups and consumed.

    If this sort of practice happened in my parish, I’d only be comfortable if one or more of the faithful kept an eye on the cups while everyone else left until the priest returned to consume our Lord’s blood.

    No shlepping it off to the sacristy for whatever disposal happens there.

  6. RP Burke says:

    I don’t understand the idea behind the wording that seems to indicate a preference for purification at the altar. From my experience, where this has been done, people sit and watch the purification as though it were an imporant ritual.

    It’s part of the Angelicaist heresy, that the way some of us remember how we used to do things is always the better way. In the 1962 Mass and those before, the chalice and any empty ciboria were purified at the altar. Of course that was better than just leaving them aside and purifying them after Mass, says the EWTN/Adoremus crowd, so that is what the boys in Rome say, the US bishops’ requests be damned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s