Sancta Missa


By Rev. William A. O'Brien, M.A.


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1. Location. The sacristy is a room usually located on one side of or behind the sanctuary. It is here that the sacred vestments, the sacred vessels and all else that is necessary to perform the sacred functions of the Church are kept. It is also the place of preparation for the clergy, and as they have obligations to fulfill both before and after the celebration of divine services, the sacristy is, by its nature, a holy place. Hence, too much care cannot be expended toward keeping it neat and orderly. The following suggestions will help to achieve this end:

2. Cleanliness. "Cleanliness is next to godliness," and as everything in the sacristy pertains to the service of God, it is plain, that every attention should be given to make the sacristy a place that is worthy of its sacred use.

3. Order and neatness. Let there be "a place for everything and everything in its place. "

4. Silence. Recollection is necessary on the part of the clergy.This is impossible without silence. Also, the sacristy is so close to the tabernacle, the dwelling place of Our Lord, that quiet and decorum must be insisted upon, for is it not written in Sacred Scripture: "But the Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him"? (Hab. II, 20.) Especially does this concern the altar boys' sacristy, which in many churches is separate from but approximate to the priests' sacristy. A card with the word "Silence, " in bold letters, will be an admonishment in this respect.

5. The Furniture of the Sacristy. Generally, a sacristy is outfitted as follows (See illustration).

(1.) The Lavabo, or Lavatory, and towel rack, where the priest washes his hands before beginning to vest for Mass.

(2.) The Vesting Table. Here the vestments are laid out and arranged in order as the priest puts them on. Frequently this vesting table also has drawers and small closets in which vestments, linens, missals, etc., are stored. A crucifix is generally at the head. There is also a card (Vesting Card) hung or standing on it containing prayers that the priest says while vesting. Another kind of card, called the Title Card, having certain other prayers that he is reminded to say at Massfor the intention of the Bishop, is generally found hung in a convenient place in the sacristy.

(3.) The Sacrarium. This is a basin used to wash and clean the chalice, ciborium or other sacred vessels, and also the small linens used in direct connection with the sacred vessels or certain ceremonies. Here it is also that the priest washes his hands after certain ceremonies. It has a drain pipe, which connects with the ground, so that such water may flow into the earth.

(4.) Cabinetsand closets. These are used to hang vestments of all kinds. Sometimes they also contain drawers in which the vestments are laid flat and in which large linen vestments such as the albs are kept.

(5.) A storage cabinet, usually of steel, in which such articles as the censer, incense boat, holy water pot (also called aspersorium), and supplies such as incense, tapers, etc., are kept.

(6.) A safe made of steel for the safekeeping of sacred vessels such as the chalice, the ostensorium (sometimes called monstrance), the church record books and other valuable matter.

(7.) A kneeling bench (also called Prie-Dieu). Generally used by the priest to say the prayers in preparation for Massor in thanksgiving after Mass. At the door leading to the sanctuary, there is hung a Holy Water Stoup, as priest and altar boy sign themselves when proceeding to the altar. Sometimes there is also a bell (sacristy bell) for the purpose of giving a signal to the people that services are to begin.

6. The Servers' Sacristy. If possible, it is best to have a separate sacristy for the altar boys, in which they can assemble and prepare themselves for their assigned duties for divine services. It should be kept no less clean and orderly than the priests' sacristy. Certain toilet accessories should be at hand for them, such as soap and towels, comb and brush, whisk broom, shoe polish and brush. One with the slightest knowledge of boys knows how forgetful as well as thoughtless they normally can be. The boys should be well groomed and outfitted. Needless to say, if such attention be given to his ordinary appearances, the altar boy's official appearance in cassock and surplice should be spotless. The sacristan should encourage the boys to obtain the things necessary toward these ends.




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