July 3, 2009

Sweating Through The TLM

I know this is a bit indelicate, but it's a real question.

In the offering of Mass according to the Extraordinary Form, the priest must maintain "custody" of thumbs and forefingers from the consecration through the ablutions.

Now let's say it's summer in the humid Hudson river valley. It's hot in church. Some parts of Father's body--"Brother Ass" as our holy father Francis called his--are covered in five layers of clothing and vestments. In the time between the consecration and the ablutions, it would seem outside of the spirit of the rubrics to pull one's hanky from one's cincture or sleeve, much less wipe one's face while maintaining custody of thumbs and forefingers. But then what do you do when, by the time of the prayers before Holy Communion, the sweat is stinging your eyes and you can't read the missal?

I am told this is what the maniple is for...but I don't want to wipe my sweaty face with fancy stitching, and much less with a representation of the Lord's Cross! Could a server do it, like someone might do for a surgeon?

I know this is kind of gross, but it's the sort of practical question that just presents itself!


Lee Strong said...

I actually saw a priest do that years ago - turn to an altar server and ask him to wipe his face!

Matt said...

EWTN aired a Pontifical High Mass celebrated as the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama. Needless to say, July in Alabama is disgustingly hot. The celebrant was the Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and I believe those assisting him were from Chicago as well, so their heat tolerance is lower than the native Alabamans. One of the assistants was sweating profusely during the celebration, but he wasn't the celebrant, so he broke his prayerful stillness to wipe his face off with his hanky. The maniple is meant to be a "liturgical napkin" to dry your face in such occasions and, while it may seem uncomfortable or awkward, it's why it's there. I'm sure a server could do it for you if you happened to have a server. As a server, I've always been responsible not just for setting up the altar for Mass but watching after the celebrant's needs like making sure his glasses go back up to the celebrant's chair so he doesn't forget them on the altar or fixing his vestments before the procession so that the collar of the alb isn't flipped up in the wrong direction.

Although on a personal level I can say I wouldn't really be to keen on wiping a priest's sweaty anything, as a server it's not really up to me to make those decisions, since I'm there to serve in more ways than one.

If all else fails and you don't feel comfortable wiping your own brow or can't find someone to do it for you, think of it as a very unique sharing in the Lord's Passion. It must have been hot up there on Calvary and sweat mingled with congealing blood could not have been a comfortable situation for Him.

Paul A. Zalonski said...

I know some would this opinion scandalous but I think the rubrics are to be respected, followed BUT one is also supposed to do what is practical. It would be more distracting not to clean your face and eyes. Aquinas, talking about the spiritual life, spoke of doing what is possible (using our reason). So, we ought to do the same when it comes to the Liturgy. You need to continue the Mass and you need to respect the artistry of the vestments. It would wrong to soil the "sacred napkin" on your arm with sweat and/or your blood. Perhaps having a little forethought in having a finger towel nearby and use your other 3 fingers or wipe your canonical digits on a purificator and then wipe the sweat away. Wouldn't want your sight impaired or the pages of the missal drenched in salt water.

The rubrics are not an end in themselves.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the thoughtful--and thoroughly Catholic--responses!

Sharon said...

Here in Australia it can get pretty hot in the summer. At my parish there is an electrical outlet at the back of the altar and on hot days father has a fan on the floor directed at him. Would this be of use?

Brother Charles said...

Good idea! I shall try it!

ben in denver said...

Don't overlook wearing lace as a partial solution. I would imagine that beautiful lace albs are in fact much much cooler than the polyester ones that I see so many priests wearing.