The work of sacristan


   The Sacristan prepares the necessary materials for celebrations and liturgical offices


missel 05-a-calice-patene-TH aubes-details
Initial capital letter of Fr Youf's missal Base of the monstrance used by Thérèse. Detail from an alb of the period.

The first duty of a sacristan is to see to the transport into the exterior chapel all of the objects necessary for the liturgical offices that should take place there. Vestments, ciborium and chalice, wine and water, bread for the altar; the sacristan ensures the items will be passed through the drawer or through the turn of the sacristy. The turn and the drawer beneath it are accessible as much from the exterior sacristy as from the interior sacristy, without, in either case, the possibility of the Sister being seen.

When the priest presented himself for Mass, the sacristan should have prepared and passed through the tour all that was necessary for the priest to dress in order to celebrate Mass. After Mass, she would collect the vestments and objects in order to put them away neatly. The priestly vestments are complex: amice, alb, cincture, stole, manipule, and chasuble. One can see here some vestments contemporaneous with Therese. It would also be necessary to prepare the altar cloth and the cloth for the Communion grill. It was the sacristan who would open the Communion grill to the Choir in order to allow the Sisters to receive Communion on days so designated.

The objects necessary to celebrate the Mass consisted of the chalice, the paten, the ciborium, the burette (photo here below), the candlesticks, and the Missal. See here the sacred vessels from the time of Thérèse and the missal of Father Youf.


For the exposition of the Holy Sacrament, the sacristan passed the monstrance and the thabor stand (see the photos around the middle of the page) as well as the requisite candles. She would pass the cope and stole for the priest. On Saturdays, she would transmit the altar candles for the Salve. The white veiled Sisters would carry these lit candles during the singing of this hymn into the Choir before the evening silent prayer.

The Sacristan would also have the responsibility for maintaining all the linens that were used during diverse ceremonies. She would ensure that they would be very clean and in good order, making new ones when needed. The Sacristan would also be the one to bless before the ceremony the habit that the new novice would receive and to prepare a large church candle for the novice to carry as well as for the other Sisters of the Community who would carry these lit candles as they accompanied the new novice in procession as she entered the Choir.

For the Communion of the sick, she would prepare the altar in the infirmary, placing on it a crucifix between two candlesticks, a corporal, and the book to be used by the priest. Near the altar, she would place a holy water font and sprinkler. If the entire Community should accompany the priest carrying the Holy Sacrament, each of the Sisters would also carry a candle. For Extreme Unction, the sacristan would prepare the altar in the infirmary as if for the Communion of the sick, without corporal, but with two holy oils and 2 small trays containing cotton balls. She would also provide a small basin and water so that the priest could clean his hands after having applied the unctions.

For internments, she would bring out Prie-Dieus covered with black fabric. She would also place in the chapel the wall hangings and black cloth. The Communion grill would be covered with a violet colored curtain. She prepared the candlesticks for the clergy and black priestly vestments: chasuble, cope, pastoral stoles, albs, cinctures and amices. For the Choir, she would prepare the procession cross and the candles for the Sisters, as well as the candlesticks that would be placed around the coffin. Here below, a photo of a detail from a vestment used by Abbot Youf for funerals, notably that of Therese.


In sum, on great feast days, the sacristan was required to decorate the altar and the tabernacle with the most beautiful white coverings and the church, if possible, with wall hangings.

With so many regular tasks to attend, one would understand that the sacristan needed an assistant. Therese would work in the sacristy from February 1891 until February 1893. In March 1896, she was put back in the sacristy but retired when she got really sick in early 1897.


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