I am happy to report that many parish altar guilds in the Diocese still follow the custom of laying out the Eucharistic vestments for their clergy. It is a thoughtful and lovely effort which is appreciated by priests everywhere. I was first taught this service by Father Burger at St. Stephen’s in Providence. The diagram below will illustrate the order in which items must be placed. The easy way to recall the order is to remember what gets put on LAST and this will be laid down FIRST. The chasuble in the diagram is an old fiddleback. The top edge at the bottom hem is flipped up slightly in the layout for ease in grasping to put over the head.
I am not sure just WHO decided maniples were too much trouble and not required these days. I might have a bone to pick with this individual as I think maniples are quite beautiful, and lend an elegant and finished touch to the complete traditional ecclesiastical vestment ensemble. Maniples were once a favorite field for exquisite embroidery. In the diagram below the maniple is the second item to be laid down, vertical on top of the chasuble to form the “I” of the sacred monogram I.H.S. Then comes the stole with the ends forming the vertical bars of the “H” and finally the girdle or cincture coiled into the “S”. A snowy alb is laid down on top of this (front facing downward with buttons undone), and finally an amice is laid on top, open and flat with the two long strings crossed diagonally over the top.
I have invented a “layout pad” to cushion the vestments on the flat surface of the table or shelf by measuring the space, cutting two damask rectangles and one rectangle of quilting batting to fit the layout space. Then make a “sandwich” of the damask with the batting in the middle. This is done by sewing the batting to the wrong side of one damask rectangle, then with both right sides together, stitch around the perimeter, leaving room to turn the rectangle inside out. Finish the opening with a slipstitch by hand. I add tassels and sometimes welting around the edges, and try to find a pattern with an ecclesiastical look. When the vestments are laid out, it is an excellent idea to cover them with a clean white cotton cover -which can be made from an old linen or cotton sheet to cover the vestments entirely. This will keep dust and hands off the vestments as they lay ready in the sacristy. I once found lovely vestment covers in a sacristy in Newport, labelled as such, made of linen with a small cross worked in the center. This was a sacristy which had once been kept by nuns-who spared no effort in sacristy-keeping.
Alas, with the advent of cassock-albs and belt cinctures, disappearing maniples and other modern notions, it is getting harder to do a proper vestment presentation these days- but do make every effort to have the Eucharistic garments, clean, pressed, and ready for each service. And for priests out there reading this- the altar guild takes great joy in preparing for the services of the church- it is not “too much trouble” to expect your guild members to lay out vestments. Handling the beautiful textiles used in the celebration of the Eucharist is a privilege and joy- and what a blessing to come into the sacristy to find everything in readiness!