When Precious Blood is Spilled

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This past Sunday, I attended Mass with my husband and 3-month old daughter as usual. And as usual, there were the reverent and irreverent parishioners, there were readings, there were songs, there was a homily, and there was a Consecration.

But unlike the usual Communion time, there was a commotion near the altar steps. At first I wondered if some poor elderly parishioner had fainted or if someone tripped down the steps. Indeed the latter might have happened, but it wasn’t the cause of the commotion:

An Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist had spilled Precious Blood. They quickly addressed the issue and moved on to completing the distribution of the Eucharist, but it certainly caused quite a stir.

So what do you do if you spill Precious Blood either on your clothing or on the floor?

I was curious as to the answer to this, so I Googled. Though I couldn’t find the physical Canon Law on the matter in my admittedly brief search, I did find this, this, and this. I thought I would share, though I urge you to talk to your priest should you encounter these situations before acting on it to prevent improper handling.

Normally, when disposing of Precious Blood after Mass, the Precious Blood must be consumed (this happens at the altar by the priest after the distribution of the Eucharist is complete), and the chalice may be rinsed with clean water. This water may be poured directly onto the ground (some parishes have a special drain that specifically drains into the ground called a Sacrarium) but should never be poured down a normal drain (no element of Christ, or something who touched him, should ever reach a sewer). Under no circumstance is the Precious Blood to be poured down the Sacrarium, but the water that rinses the chalice after consumption can be, though, again by no means down a normal drain. The idea is that, though the water has touched residual Precious Blood, the amount of Blood left is so tiny that Christ is no longer truly present in it and is the reason why it can be discarded, with reverence, on the ground. The purificators are soaked in water, with the water discarded in the Sacrarium as well.

Should Precious Blood be spilled on the ground, purificators should be used to soak it up, and soaked as normal with the water discarded in the Sacrarium.

Most of us will never deal with this on our own if we are never Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, and if you become an EM, you’ll almost assuredly be trained in how to handle such issues.

If Precious Blood spills on your clothing as a parishioner, one article I found has a priest who advised that soaking the article of clothing at your earliest convenience in a bowl of clean water to get as much of the Precious Blood out as possible and then taking that water and discarding it on the ground (again, not down a drain) before washing the clothing in a washing machine is sufficient.

I pray that no one reading this ever faces needing to handle spilled Precious Blood. Ideally we would have perfectly nimble hands and feet where there would be zero risk of this most grave issue, but obviously our fallen state includes unintended clumsiness, and it’s useful to know how you might proceed.

***As always, you should ask your priest before taking the advice from a blog should you encounter these issues, and it’s always a good idea to take the most conservative and reverential approach you can.***

4 Replies to “When Precious Blood is Spilled”

  1. Fantastic PSA on this subject. I bet too many people (myself included not too long ago) wouldn’t even know to handle a spill of precious blood differently than anything else.

  2. I really love that you have the disclaimer at the end. Too often people put stock in what others say without really researching it on their own or consulting their own priest on the matter. In the end, what we are providing is an opportunity for others to explore on their own, but to ultimately be responsible for their own education.

    I am an advocate for dispensing under one Species during Mass for this very reason. Christ deserves the *utmost* respect and dispensing under both species and using too many EEMs opens up the potential for abuse, whether intended or otherwise. It is a very real problem that we need to be able to discuss candidly and honestly.

    Thanks for sharing this much needed topic, Karen. 🙂

  3. My husband is a deacon, and we had this talk recently. I suffer from arthritis in my hands and I worry about dropping the chalice. Sometimes I don’t have much of a grip. I thought that perhaps salt would be better to soak up ALL of the precious blood. Then the salt would be blessed and could be used. But that my inner cleaning freak thinking, since at home you would use salt to clean a wine spill.

  4. You have NO idea how much this topic hits me. My son is an alter server and I pray every time he carries either. His robe often slips out of it’s tie and I am terrified of him tripping. I think I will ask to bring it home and hem it this weekend!!

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