Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Laundering Altar Linens

Sunday after Mass I took the corporals, purificators, and lavabo towels home, and spent the afternoon hand-laundering them. In my view there is no substitute for hand washing these linens that are set aside for such a holy purpose as the administration of the Holy Supper. Especially when considering the purificators and corporals, which come in contact with the Sacred Species, it is important to take great care in their cleaning, ironing, handling, and storage.
In fact, it is worth making the preliminary point that, before these linens get washed, or handled, by the hands of laymen, the priest should perform what we might call the first washing. That is, he should first wash them himself in water which will then be poured down the sacrarium. If a church lacks a sacrarium, he ought to use a secluded spot of earth for this purpose.

Ruth got curious about what I was doing at one point, so I recruited her to help. After washing the linens in water and gentle soap, then rinsing, and hand drying them, the next step was to iron them flat, and finally to iron the proper folds into each. The way the system evolved was that Ruth's two stations in the process were the drying, and the initial ironing. My specialty became the washing, rinsing, and ironing the proper folds. I then packed them securely, and took them back to the sacristy yesterday.

What about the folds? (There's a topic for a "What About" pamphlet.) For the purificator, lay it upside down (ie., with the seams facing up, and the front of the cross facing down) and fold it into thirds lengthwise, so that the face of the cross ends up exposed. Then, fold it in half, so that the cross still ends up exposed. Finally, give it a "cup fold" by folding it back a couple inches from the center on each side, so that it may rest nicely atop the chalice, and drape evenly (the red cross facing down toward the Blood of Christ in the chalice. The exact radius of the "cup fold" will depend on the diameter of your chalice.

For the corporal, the intent is to fold it into nine equal squares, in such a way that the front gets enclosed, so that any particles of the sacred Host will be folded into the linen at the end of the Communion. Lay it right side up (seams down and cross up). Fold it into thirds lengthwise, folding in the side close to you first, and then bringing the opposite side over it. Then fold in the right, and finally the left.

Let our cleaning and handling of the altar linens be undertaken with care and attention, so that the practical aspects of the administration of the Sacrament may be served, and our reverence and thanksgiving for our Lord's awesome gift of Himself may be manifest.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Dcn. Latif,

"What about the folds? (There's a topic for a "What About" pamphlet.)"

I hasten to point out that such a pamphlet is already in print. This is a small 12 page booklet (half page, 4.25 x 5.5) entitled "Handbook for Laundering Liturgical Linens." It is published Angelus Press (www.angeluspress.org)

This booklet provides instructions on the proper folding of Purificators, Corporals, Palls, Lavabo Towels and the Amice (if it is still used). The ISBN number is 978-1-89233-159-5. The first printing was July 2008.

It would be good to provide copies for your Sacristans and Altar Guild people.

I would be interested in reading the comments of those who do obtain copies of this booklet.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Thanks for sharing that, Deacon.