"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

Preparation of the Altar 2

Published July 21, 2013 by Fr. Paul Counce

I’m in a really picky mood today, so I’d like to talk in this week’s morceau about something that – maybe – is very minor. Remember last week we noticed that at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the assistant ministers “set the table”? One of the things they bring to the center of the altar is a cloth called a “corporal.” It’s square or rectangular, usually made of linen or cotton, and it comes folded.

The deacon or altar server then unfolds it carefully, just as it will be folded again carefully after communion. Now this sounds trivial, but the way this is done actually is important.

You see, the corporal serves as kind of a “place-mat” for the vessels which will hold the Body and Blood of Christ. In particular, should particles of the Sacred Host or droplets of the Precious Blood spill, these should fall onto the corporal. It is always supposed to be folded “inwards” so that any Eucharistic crumbs will be retained in its folds, and not scattered about. Before it’s washed a careful inspection of it ought to take place, to make sure that particles of the Eucharist which might be present are properly taken care of.

My point? I always wince a bit inside when the corporal is folded or unfolded improperly. I also wonder sometimes when I visit churches where a corporal is not used, or when it’s clear that the corporal remains on the altar in-between Masses (sometimes for weeks or months at a time!). While I’m sure in these places that no disrespect to the Eucharist is purposeful and so we ought not label such practices as abuses, it’s a good reminder that it’s easy to grow careless and accidentally make a mistake.

Now: was that a minor concern, or was it not?

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