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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Purifying Vessels At Mass....

The following question was asked:

My son is an altar server. At Daily Mass he was asked by the priest to dry the vessels after the priest purified them. Is this allowed? Thanks!

My response:

Absolutely not!!!! The wiping of the vessels is part of the purifying process.

Unless he is an installed acolyte, by the bishop, as an official ministry of the Church, or higher (ie. deacon or priest), he is not allowed to do that. This article speaks about extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, but that extends to anyone serving on the altar. This has been in place since 2006, so either your pastor is unaware, or willfully disobedient. That is not for me to decide, but those are the only two options in this case.

I would specifically look to GIRM #163.

I would have a quick conversation with the priest and inform him that the action is not allowed and that the boy will not be assisting in the purifying process going forward.  There is no need for a confab or meeting of the minds, the Church is clear on this matter.  A bit of clarification would go a long way here...we are not talking about cleaning and drying the vessels after Holy Mass, but the boy really shouldn't be doing that either...that is the Sacristan's job and not that of a 10 year old.

The Church is clear. Laymen cannot purify.

source (cf. #4)
source (cf. #119)
If celebrant doesn't want him to serve, because he is being obedient to Holy Mother Church, then he should go sit and assist with his parents.

It is more harmful to have him engage in an abuse than to say no to a priest. I will never advocate visible disobedience. If the celebrant hands him the partially purified chalice, then he should simply cover it with the purificator and place it on the credence, without any attempt to purify. After Mass, he should inform the celebrant that he needs to finish purifying the vessel and and respectfully decline to do that in the future. There needs to be no drama, there needs to be no dissention, because there is none. The boy is being clear about his role and dutifully fulfilling it.

If in the course of the conversation, the following questions may be warranted.  In light of Redemptionis Sacramentum #119 and the document CONGREGATIO CULTO DIVINO ET DISCIPLINA SACRAMENTORUM, should my son be purifying vessels?


Since GIRM #163 speaks to the action specifically, should we have him respectfully decline or simply cover the chalice during the Mass and have the celebrant (or other PROPERLY installed cleric) finish purfying after Holy Mass?

Outside of that, I think that the boy should not be placed in a situation like that.  Priests know better.  They really do.  Even the most liberal.  If they are including the laity in this action, they are doing it out of a misguided and misunderstood notion of what the "priesthood of the faithful" really is.

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