QUAERITUR: The washing of altar linens

From a reader…


My mother is an Extraordinary Minister of Communion and has to wash the altar linen used during the various Masses. Out of curiosity, and preventing possible sacrilege, what is the best and most respectful way to wash corporals and purificators?

The ideal, classic, way is for the priest to do the first rinsing. That water should go down the sacrarium or poured onto the ground.

There is a good booklet on the care of linens.

Handbook for Laundering Liturgical Linens.

Very useful!

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  1. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    One of the better documents the USCCB Committee on Liturgy (as it was known) has issued was one on the care and cleaning of altar linens. I couldn’t find it on a quick search of the USCCB website, but the Archdiocese of Boston has it on theirs. It was issued in 2001. It is a very useful document:


  2. iPadre says:

    Great booklet! I gave it to all of the women in my Rosary & Altar Society.

    Our problem is that when the new church was built in 1987, they did not see the need for a sacrarium. How any priest let that happen is shameful! However, we use plastic bins to collect the soiled linens and the woman who washes them does the pre-washings in the plastic bins and pours the water in her garden.

  3. pjsandstrom says:

    If you look carefully at the cover illustration on that booklet, the corporal is up side down below the chalice and paten. I hope the information inside the booklet is more careful to be correct.

  4. Father G says:

    @ pjsandstrom,
    Yes, I noticed that too. I am surprised to see such an obvious mistake in an SSPX publication.

  5. majuscule says:

    The purificator should never be made of paper or any other disposable material.

    …(the lavabo towel)…efforts should be made to avoid the appearance of a “dish towel,” “bath towel” or other cloth with a purely secular use.

    That they had to mention this makes me cringe…

  6. APX says:

    I have a copy and the corporal has been a real annoyance for me. It also appears to not be starched, which being that this was published by the SSPX, it is assumed that this would be done in accordance to the requirements for non-Vatican II corporals.

  7. Michael in NoVA says:

    majuscule says:
    1 July 2014 at 9:49 am

    The purificator should never be made of paper or any other disposable material.

    The Newman Center at my undergraduate institution had these. There was one Mass per week in a non-denominational campus chapel, and the paper purificators were used at those. (The Masses at the Newman Center itself used real cloth purificators.) When a roommate and I became sacristans for the chapel Mass, when made sure to collect the paper purificators so that they weren’t thrown away, as I believe had been the practice in the past. We would then carefully burn them in the courtyard of the Newman Center, with the approval of the chaplain. We never felt great about it, but did not know what else to do. We certainly knew that just throwing them out was wrong.

    Of course, they also did not use precious metal chalices at the campus chapel, either, but I did not know about the rubrics for those then. I also can’t recall how we cleaned them. Perhaps that is for the best. I know the plate that was used for the hosts was stoneware/pottery. We would have two plates in the vestibule, and if you wanted to receive at that Mass, you would move a host from one plate to the other. After all, since there was no tabernacle, we didn’t want to have “extra” consecrated Hosts to have to transport back to the Newman Center! May God on mercy on us for any sacrileges we may have committed out of ignorance!

  8. sejoga says:

    Could someone explain to me what this means (from the link to the Boston Archdiocese)…?

    “Sacred vessels should be made of precious metal, although in the United States other precious materials may be used. Glass, ceramic or clay chalices and patens are not appropriate for use in the liturgy.”

    What is an “other precious material” that’s NOT a “precious metal” that can be used? At first I thought maybe it was saying (which wouldn’t have surprised me) that the US Bishops had approved “precious” glass, ceramic, or clay… but of course the next sentence ruled those out, thankfully. But I’m confused by the wording here.

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