Washing altar linens

I had a request from DilexitPrior for information on washing altar linens. I thought it was worth a post because of the good links that people often give in the comment box. I don't consider myself an expert so if you have further advice or any useful links, please do chip in.

For purificators and corporals, the precaution is taken of washing them first in water and then pouring the water into the sacrarium or into the earth. The reason is that if there should be any particles of the sacred host or drops of the precious blood on either, they are not just poured into the sewer. It would be sufficient to put the items into a bowl of water for a while before squeezing them out and disposing of the water. Then they can be washed in the usual way either by hand or in a washing machine. (The finger towels can just be washed in the normal way.)

It is good if corporals can be starched fairly heavily. Purificators can be starched but not too heavily. Finger towels do not need to be starched.

Fold in thirds lengthwise; then in thirds crosswise with the emroidered cross showing on top.

With the right side facing up, fold as follows:
  • Bottom third: fold up
  • Top third: fold down
  • Right third fold left
  • Left third fold toward right
When folded, the embroidered cross will be inside and the "wrong" side of the fabric will be facing up. In use, the Corporal is placed on altar and unfolded to expose the cross.

Finger towel
Fold in thirds lengthwise; then in half.

For further advice, I would suggest going to any reasonably traditional convent where this work is done regularly. Alternatively, the ladies who are part of Opus Dei take great care of the altar linens for Mass and I am sure they would be happy to help.

(Sometimes, when this topic is raised, people say that we should not be fussing about such minutiae. I would refer them to the example of St Francis of Assisi and Blessed Charles de Foucauld, both of whom were insistent that altar linens should be well cared for. Neither of them neglected other aspects of the Gospel message as a result.)

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