The Service of the Divine
All that We Have: Our New Communion Patens
Published on January 16-17, 2016 in the Parish Bulletin of Jesus Our Savior Catholic Church, Morehead KY
At the Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord on January 9, I blessed the two new pewter patens that our parish will now be using for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Richard P. Barnes, Sr. came forward and presented at the altar the two gifts that were been given by John and Josephine Anderson in memory of his two sons, Joseph R. Barnes (1953-2014) and Richard P. Barnes, Jr. (1954-2015). The name of each son has been engraved on the bottom of the patens.
Both patens are pewter bowls that had been hand-crafted with a satin finish by Woodbury Pewter in Woodbury, Connecticut. Each one has a diameter of nine inches and can hold up to 250 small hosts.
In the Catholic Church, a paten is a shallow plate or disc of precious metal upon which the unleavened host is offered and on which the Body of Christ is placed after the consecration. The word paten comes from the Latin patena and the Greek πατανε, both of which refer to a plate or a dish.
Before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, patens (and chalices) had to be consecrated by a bishop prior to their use at Mass. The bishop smeared the surface of a paten (and the inside of the cup) with sacred chrism as he pronounced the prayer of blessing. Thus, everything that held the Body and Blood of Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist—the hands of a priest, the chalice and paten, and the altar—was consecrated beforehand with this hallowed oil. It is interesting though that the various other vessels that were used to hold the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass—the ciborium, the pyx, the tabernacle, and the monstrance—were not consecrated with chrism, but blessed with holy water.
The present rite of blessing of (a chalice and) a paten is found in Appendix IV of the English translation of the Roman Missal, in the Book of Blessings (nos. 1360-1387), and in the Roman Pontifical (chapter 7). The blessing is no longer reserved to a bishop; it may be given by a priest, but it is preferred that it be imparted during Mass so that the exclusive and permanent use of these sacred vessels for the celebration of Holy Eucharist may be made apparent in the course of that celebration.
The prayer of blessing offered by the priest reminds us why these vessels are treated with reverence and respect: “the Body and Blood of [Christ] offered and received by means of these vessels, make them holy.” Thus, any use of them other than in the service of the Divine would be considered a sacrilege.
I think that it is fitting that these two precious patens have been given as gifts in memory of Richard Barnes’ two sons. At every Mass, as we remember the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of the Father on the altar of the cross, these patens now also invite us to remember at the altar these two other sons of the Father and to pray that the Body of Christ which has been given up for them and for us might bring them to everlasting life.