In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I attend a suburban Catholic Church on Saturdays for the Vigil Mass where the Sacristan lights the altar candles and lays out (unfolds) the corporals on the altar 15 minutes before Mass starts. Those corporals remain there through two additional Sunday Masses.

Two Saturdays ago when I was an altar server and was setting the altar at Mass, there was an evident fresh  wine colored stain on one of the corporals presumably from a funeral Mass earlier in the day. I hesitated for a moment not knowing what to do and then went on carefully avoiding placing anything on  the stain.   Again, the corporal was left in place on the altar after Mass! 

None of the priests at this church remove the corporals.  The servers have been told to just leave them. 

I was taught that corporals should be REMOVED from the altar (either by the Priest or a server) after Communion and fresh ones laid out for EACH Mass DURING Mass. Don’t want to be a stickler, but this practice seems like saving on linens trumps honoring  our Lord’s Body and Blood. 

Your thoughts on this? 

Many thanks.


A: There are two separate issues here: The period of time when a corporal rests on the altar, and the potential reuse of corporals.

Regarding the first, here’s a previous post: that leads to this previous post: . 

I also note in my book Let Us Pray that the priest or deacon is to gather any fragments that may remain after communion (GIRM 163, 183). I generally go back to the altar to examine the corporal for this purpose. Concluding this procedure makes an appropriate time to fold and remove the corporal, as the vessels are being removed (163).

The corporal is not another altar cloth. The altar is bare at the beginning of Mass. The corporal is to be brought to the altar as part of the preparation of the gifts. At some point is has to be removed at the conclusion of one Mass so that it may be brought out for the next.

As to reusing a corporal, it is common practice for the same corporal to serve more than one Mass, but I know of no rule governing this. Common sense would show that if one has been stained, it should be replaced until it can be cleaned.