From a reader:
Father, I am in a quandary and I wonder if you would offer any advice on how to resolve it?
A couple of months ago I was asked to help with the laundering of altar linens as one of the 2 women who had been doing this is elderly and in poor health. I agreed- partly because as a convert of only just over a year in a tiny parish I felt I should do any useful task when asked and partly in private reparation for my past feminism which would have derided such a task as “traditional women’s work”.
The last time I laundered and ironed these I realised I had become muddled about folding them so I went to my computer to see if I could find any guidance. I found an article in the Catholic Encyclopedia which was helpful but towards the end I came across this:
“Before soiled corporals, palls, and purificators are given to nuns or lay persons to be laundried, bleached, mended or ironed, they must be first washed, then rinsed twice by a person in sacred orders (Cong.
Sac. Rit., 12 September, 1857). “
Now, I know that this is not done. Father leaves them on top of the chest of drawers which holds the clean ones; we put them in the washing bag and take them home to launder. It may be that this directive is no longer the case. Although, now I have read it, I can can see why this is the rule but this seems to preclude its being changed.
I find it very hard to know how to go about raising my anxiety with either the other person who shares the task or with the Priest, who is a visiting Priest as we do not have our own parish Priest. In many ways (although thankfully not all ways) it is a “liberal” diocese and I think I am getting a reputation for being rather too orthodox?/traditional? Not sure quite what words they would use. And I am such a recent Catholic I shrink from seeming to question the way things are done.
On the other hand, now that the possibility of my acting sacrilegiously has been raised, it is not possible just to continue without checking it out.
I wrote a review of an extremely useful resource for people doing altar linens from Angelus Press. HERE.
I don’t recall having seen any directive since after the post-Conciliar reforms went into force about that first rinsing of the linens. However, I believe it to be a good practice and one that ought to be restored where it is not observed.
I think that the people taking care of the linens should ask the priest to do the first rinsing of them.
- It takes but a moment.
- It is a good practice.
- It could remind the priest to be grateful to those doing the linens.
- It shows respect for what the linens are used for.