Why the corporal?

The word corporal comes from the Latin word corpus, meaning body. It is the cloth on which the paten and chalice are placed during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the consecration of the most holy Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. The purpose of the corporal is to catch any fragments of the consecrated host that may fall away from the sacred host. Folding it improperly, flipping it over or shaking it out cause the fragments to be thrown to the floor. The corporal is a square linen cloth. It is usually about 18 to 19″ square. The corporal should not be left on the altar, since that would defeat its purpose.

Why is it that many priests/ deacons no longer know how to open and refold a corporal? I have seen priests and deacons, pick up, shake out and flip over the corporal, showing they do not know why we use one. Here is a quote from “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described” by Dom @Alcuin Reid (Pg. 66 & 85). Even if a priest does not celebrate the Extraordinary Form, he can learn a lot from our tradition.

“Then he  spreads the corporal, placing the unfolded corporal in the middle of the altar and opening out its sides, and then the top and the bottom, ensuring that the creates face upward (so that any fragments are contained within it when it is folded again); the front edge should be about an inch from the front of the altar.”

And on refolding it:

“He folds the corporal beginning with the fold nearest himself and puts it back into the burse.”


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About Fr. Jay Finelli

Father Jay Finelli is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in the state of Rhode Island. He is a webmaster, podcaster, and blogger. In his free time, Father is an avid Live Steam enthusiast.


Why the corporal? — 1 Comment

  1. Thank you Fr. Finelli for explaining this more thoroughly to the lay person. My only hope is that the vast majority of Priest take heed and bring back the reverence God deserves. I have much too often witnessed the complacentness of this beautiful reliving of Christ’s last moments before the Crucifixion through the gift of the Mass and have taken upon myself to learn the true meaning of each step we witness. I pray for all our clergy and leaders of our Catholic faith as well as those who administer to those who do not know Him.

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