This is the first post in the weekly series of “Sacristy Notes.” Liturgy and evangelization/outreach go together, for this reason nothing in the liturgy should be overlooked. The service of our worship requires attention to detail because worship must be the most intentional of activities.
Briefly: Corporals are the square linen cloths on which the which the chalice and paten are placed at Mass. Often there is a small red cross embroidered towards one of the edges. Sometimes there is nothing. Less frequently the corporal is embellished with other sorts of ornamentation. The corporal is especially important because it catches fragments of the consecrated species which may not land on the paten during the fraction or during transfers between ciboria.
Practical considerations: After the fractioning rite every corporal should be treated as if fragments of the Eucharistic species on. For this reason, it is important that a corporal be unfolded and folded in the proper manner, as well as laundered in a particular way. To facilitate proper folding of the corporal, it should be ironed in a particular way.
Laundering: The first rinsing of a corporal should always take place in the sacristy’s sacrarium. Having cleansed the corporals in the sacrarium, they are laundered according to the usual method.
Ironing/ folding: Four creases are folded or ironed into the corporal so as to facilitate its folding without losing any of the fragments, as well as to assist in the crisp and smooth setting of the altar. Having ironed the corporal flat, continue by folding and ironing the bottom third of the corporal which is closest to the priest at Mass (usually this is denoted by the red cross). Second, fold and iron the top third over the other sections so that there are now similarly sized sections on top of each other. Next, fold and iron a third of each side toward the center. Starch can be used according to custom.
iPad Photos: NB: This corporal is worn and no longer suitable for liturgical use. It is awaiting proper disposable, but more on that later. The bottom photo is an example of a less common style of corporal–improperly folded.