Altar Cards

Here is a novelty that I recently saw. First, an introduction:

In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the priest recites a number of prayers from specially-made cards that are positioned on the center and both ends of the altar. All of these prayers can be found in the Missal, but in order to avoid things like excessive page-turning and handling of ribbons, and also having his head turned to the side rather than straight-ahead (for example, at the consecration), he is to recite certain prayers from these cards instead.

When it is time for communion, and the priest has to take the ciborium containing the previously-consecrated hosts out of the tabernacle, it ordinarily involves having to move the central altar card to one side. This can be a bit tricky, since he has to keep his thumb and pointer finger together while doing so, so as to avoid the possibility that any particles of the Blessed Sacrament still on his fingers might be lost. For this reason, in some nicer sets of altar cards the central one has little wheels on the bottom so that it can be easily slid to one side.

Well, in all of my travels I have always seen cards that are more or less as I described above. Until my recent trip to Venice when, in the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary (commonly called the Church of the Gesuati), I saw this set:

With little electric candles, presumably to illuminate the cards for easier reading. Though I would probably get rid of those.

With little electric candles, presumably to illuminate the cards for easier reading. Though I would probably get rid of those.

You see there that the central card is designed in such a way that it wraps around the tabernacle door so that it can be opened without moving the card out of the way! The print on them looks tiny, but that is often the case with a lot of older texts. Apart from the “Missals for the Blind” that used to be printed in the good old days, I think very few “large print” resources existed: it is a more recent idea. In any case, most priests had most of the prayers on these cards memorized from daily use.

A design exactly like this wouldn’t be possible for every church, given the different shapes of tabernacles, but it seems to me that with some minor variations it could be adapted for most places. Of course, that means having something custom-made, instead of ordering from a catalog. And it can get expensive. But it is a great idea and maybe it will inspire someone!

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One Response to Altar Cards

  1. Magdalena says:

    I’m feeling inspired. 🙂

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