ROME, 13 NOV. 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father
Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Q: Though I was raised with the Latin Mass as a child, I have since
become accustomed to not seeing the pall used. Then, I was assigned for
many years in foreign countries where the pall was available, thankfully
so, in churches where flies are a problem. Circumstances thus taught me
from where the chalice-pall tradition was born. Therefore, except for
when I hold the chalice during the consecration, or when I place the
small piece of the Host in the chalice, I usually have it covered until
reception of the Precious Blood. However, I have had times when a
visiting priest will reach over and remove it when the bread and wine
are being blessed. I, however, when alone, leave it on until the last
possible moment before taking it in hand, especially on a fly-some day.
Is there any guide (except common sense) to know when to leave the pall
on or take it off?
J.E., Houston, Texas
A: The chalice pall is a square of linen stiffened with starch,
cardboard or plastic set upon the sacred vessel. In some cases the
square of white linen is attached to the underside of palls that reflect
the seasonal color or even of highly elaborate palls made of different
materials including gold, silver and wood. They are also often decorated
with sacred images or fine embroidery.
As our reader points out, the primary use of the chalice pall is to
prevent dust and insects from falling into the chalice during the
In places where insecticides and air conditioning have greatly reduced
the presence of insects during Mass, the use of the pall has greatly
Even in such cases, however, quite a number of priests still prefer to
use the pall, or at least have one available on the altar if necessary.
After all, no prevention system is foolproof, and a priest can hardly
interrupt the Mass to look for insecticide should a fly start buzzing
around the chalice.
In all cases where there is a real danger of flies or dust falling into
the chalice, the pall should be used.
While the rule of thumb is common sense, the most common practice
appears to have the pall cover the chalice at the credence table from
the beginning of Mass until the preparation of the chalice at the
presentation of gifts.
After the presentation of the chalice the pall is placed upon the
chalice until the epiclesis, when it is removed by the deacon or priest.
It is replaced after the showing of the chalice and remains for the rest
of the Eucharistic Prayer until the doxology ("Through him, with him
…"). It is again replaced from the Our Father until the "Haec Commixtio,"
when a fragment of the Host is placed in the chalice.
Since Communion follows shortly after, and the priest is usually
attentive to the chalice, it is not normally replaced after the "Haec
Commixtio." After the priest's Communion, the pall may be placed on the
When the danger of flies is particularly grave, such as happens in
tropical areas, the use of the pall may be extended further.
Special care must also be taken when several chalices are consecrated.
If palls are necessary, then they should be used on every chalice. The
general custom is to remove all palls during the time of the
consecration, but even this removal would not be essential in cases of
In some cases the objective difficulty of protecting the sacred species
from flies may be considered sufficient motivation for not offering the
option of Communion under both species.
Although it is a secondary motivation, the pall may also be used along
with the chalice veil (the use of which is still recommended by the
General Instruction for the Roman Missal). Placing the stiff pall under
the veil allows it be draped over the chalice in a most elegant manner.
* * *
Follow-up: Using the Chalice Pall [11-27-2007]
Pursuant to our observations on the use of the chalice pall (Nov. 13), a
reader commented: "How you respond to liturgical inquiries might be
enhanced by your becoming more familiar with versions of the Missale
Romanum from 1962 and before. Although there are no current rubrics for
the use of the pall, questions about proper use could be more adequately
examined according to historical usage rather than 'common practice' or
one's own 'common sense.'
"I think your questioner below was looking for something more
'authoritative,' shall we say. In the Missale Romanum of 1962, the pall
is not removed during the epiclesis, but only when the time came for the
consecration of the wine. Further, after the consecration, every time
the pall is removed there is a genuflection, and every time it is
replaced, there is a genuflection. It would seem that history might
provide us some guidance here."
Our correspondent is, of course, correct in saying that reference to
practice before the current reform can be most useful in interpreting
some current doubts. And I have often been enlightened by reference to
liturgical texts and manuals from that period.
These texts have also recovered much of their actuality, now that the
possibility of celebrating Mass according to the 1962 missal has been
Our reader's observations, however, also show the difficulty involved in
deciding if a rubric from the 1962 Roman rite may be applied "tout
court" to the present celebration or if it is no more than a useful rule
Thus, for example, the rule that there is a genuflection every time that
the pall is removed or replaced, certainly does not apply to the present
form of Mass. The present form clearly specifies the genuflections to be
made during Mass.
Since the use of the pall is no longer obligatory, the earlier norms are
not legally binding for when the pall happens to be used for the present
rite. The earlier norms, however, can indicate the maximum possible use
of removing the pall only for the consecration of the wine.
Therefore, even though the earlier norms can be a useful guide we must
necessarily have recourse to other criteria such as custom and common
sense in interpreting their use for the present rite.
Indeed, many liturgical rubrics originated as custom and common sense
and only gradually became fixed as precise and exact norms.