Do you know what a “pall” is?

The word actually has at least two distinct meanings in connection with Catholic worship. First, there is this type of pall, a rigid square covering for the chalice. Here are two that I have:

A combination of machine and hand embroidery.

A combination of machine and hand embroidery.

These serve the very practical purpose of keeping things that should not be in the chalice out of it – such as fruit flies, which have the (seeming) capability of materializing out of thin air, when you least expect. These in the photo are very decorative, so that they also serve the secondary purpose of glorifying God, and the tertiary purpose of edifying those who look upon them, especially the priest. They have a heavily-starched piece of white linen lightly stitched onto the back side, so that if any of the Precious Blood should still be on the rim of the chalice it will be absorbed by a piece of cloth that can then be detached, properly purified, and laundered. Number 306 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal foresees the use of a pall, though many places sadly do not use them.

The second type of pall that comes to mind, used in Catholic worship, is the very large cloth that is draped over a casket inside the church during a funeral. Traditionally it would have been black in color, though most nowadays are white. When the funeral pall is white, it will often be explained that it is a symbol of the baptismal garment. But since it can also be black or purple, I think a more general explanation is in order: we veil those things which are most sacred, which is why there is a cloth over the altar, in many places a veil over the tabernacle, in some places one also over the ciborium that holds the hosts inside the tabernacle, and why the priest wears vestments when he celebrates the Sacred Liturgy. It is also why we (should) dress modestly. In this particular case, the dead body, which had been sanctified through Baptism and anointed through Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick, which was nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, also is covered as a sign of respect and reverence for the deceased whose soul we now commend to God, in view of the resurrection of the body at the last day.

Perhaps I should do another post on the veiling and covering of that which is sacred; though I think if you do a search you will find that many have already written about it. But it is something that we definitely need to talk about sometime here as well!

Something to look for, if you haven’t noticed before: Does the priest where you go to Mass use a pall on the chalice?

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