Why do we do that? Catholic Life Explained

March 25, 2021

Question: Why haven’t Catholic Churches gone the way of disposable cups for wine distribution?

Answer: If a Catholic has ever attended a Protestant worship service and saw the communion service that was offered for that community, one of the things that might have stood out was the use of small, disposable cups for distributing the wine or grape juice. This is in stark contrast to the precious metal chalices used in Catholic churches during the Mass.

Although practices for Protestant Christians can vary (ranging from large shared chalices, to personal-use cups, to dipping the bread in the wine/grape juice), the norms governing Catholic practices are fairly direct: “Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be gilded on the inside. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also be made from other solid materials that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious … they are to have bowls of nonabsorbent material” (nos. 328-330). Rather than being a commentary on the beliefs or practices of those other communities, these rules are intended to highlight the reverence that Catholics have for the bread and wine consecrated at Mass, which become the Body and Blood the Lord.