Can a Priest Use White Wine at Mass?

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently concluded their fall assembly in Baltimore on November 18th. Among the topics discussed was a document on Eucharistic coherence, a discussion of its necessity, and a vote. There were many factors in the generation of this document, including concern by Catholic laypeople and bishops regarding the seeming complexity of what is allowed in liturgical proceedings.

With that in mind, Licia called in to The Patrick Madrid Show to ask guest host Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ about the things taking place at her parish. Specifically, Licia attended Mass and saw that the priest was using white wine instead of red wine. Additionally, the chalice was not prepared in the traditional way (the priest typically pours wine in, followed by a little water) and she was concerned about the validity of these methods in Mass.

Father Matthew began by stating that it was admirable for Licia to be concerned and focused on the methods by which consecration is carried out. Certainly, we do not want to ignore the habits of a priest if they are invalidating the sacrament of the Eucharist. Father admitted that sometimes, with no malicious intent, priests get carried away by their creative ideas. They may think something is easier to do or something might save time, but it is removing an integral part of the transubstantiation. However, this is usually not the case.

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Father Matthew consoled Licia with the answer that it doesn’t matter what color the wine is that the priest uses. In fact, while Jesus is usually depicted with red grapes or red wine, we don’t know what color it was at the Last Supper. What matters is that the priest uses the unleavened bread and wine to begin consecration. Even after transubstantiation, the accidents (or physical qualities) will remain the same, but the substance will be different. They are the Body and Blood of Jesus. That is what matters most.

As for the preparation of the chalice, Father Matthew admitted that without seeing the process from start to finish, he could not make a faultless ruling whether it was correct or incorrect. Licia said that one day, a priest used white wine and water from the cruets and the next day, a different priest didn’t even bother pouring the cruets into the chalice. Presumably, the wine and water was already in the chalice. Assuming that that was in fact the case, Father Matthew said it is possible that either the deacon or concelebrant could have done it. Alternatively, in special cases, the priest is allowed to prepare the chalice before Mass. Either are acceptable, but neither are guaranteed explanations for what happened in this case.

Licia thanked Father Matthew for his explanation and said that she had peace of mind that this was not an abuse on the priest’s part. It was most likely an indulgence in the Church’s flexibility in parts of the Mass. Father Matthew continued, saying that he shares the concerns of the Faithful out there who may be witnessing questionable habits at their parish. When he was learning about the Liturgy in the seminary, he began to take notice of how much some celebrants would depart from the traditional practices. Part of the reason he joined the Oblates of St. Joseph was so that he could celebrate the Mass exactly as the Church specifies. 

“At the same time, I think it is important for us to be careful that we’re approaching the sacred mysteries not to be the liturgical police for those who are there, but rather to enter into those mysteries.” He clarified that Licia was not acting as police, but he wanted to preemptively calm those who might feel the need to look for mistakes or correct their parish priest.

Listen to the full question and answer below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.