In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Why do we call the cloth covered square we place over the chalice a pall? I was looking at some definitions and they are all pretty gloomy: “Something regarded as enveloping a situation with an air of gloom, heaviness, or fear.” I understand this in relation to a funeral pall. How does this apply to the chalice? Just curious and thanks for all you do.


A: The word “pall” probably comes from the Latin word pallium which was a garment worn by early Christians, and is still the name of the special stole-like vestment worn by archbishops. Because it was a covering, its name got attached to the cloth-covered cardboard square placed on top of a chalice to keep bugs away. Later it became used for the cloth placed over the coffin at a funeral for the same reason: it was a garment, like the Christian baptismal garment. Then, because of its association with funerals, the word came to mean an air of gloom.

But there’s nothing gloomy about its use at Mass. It promotes hygiene.