A church’s sacristy might seem to be a place of mystery to many Catholics. Relatively few have reason to venture into a sacristy, and those who do generally have a purpose in mind, usually talking to the priest. Indeed, the sacristy is typically the domain of the altar servers, sacristans, and those in charge of laundering the altar linens. Let’s take a look around and see what’s typically in there.
The accompanying diagram from Fr. William O’Brien’s book, In Sacristy and Sanctuary, depicts many of the [numbered] key objects found in a typical sacristy: 1) The sink, not to be confused with 3) the sacrárium, a special sink which drains into the ground rather than the sewer. The sacrárium is used to dispose of Holy Water, water in which dropped Hosts have been dissolved, and in general any liquid which has been blessed. 2) The sacristy table contains drawers for altar linens, certain types of vestments and vestment parts (stoles, maniples) that can be stored flat, and supplies of all sorts. Older churches may have one or more framed prayer cards above the table, containing Vesting Prayers and Prayers Before and After Mass. Above the sink in older churches is often found the Prayer Before Washing Hands. These prayers are sometimes in Latin and are said by the celebrant while vesting before Mass. In newer churches they are provided on portable, framed cards.
5) The incense cabinet, containing the thurible, charcoal, incense, matches, the incense boat, and related supplies.
6) The safe, containing the cibória (containers for the Hosts), chalices, monstrance, reliquaries, and related precious metallic objects.
Vestments and altar servers’ cassocks and surplices are stored in closets, sometimes in a separate sacristy room on the other side of the sanctuary (the “servers sacristy”, meant for servers, as opposed to the main “priest’s sacristy”).
There is always a Crucifix in the sacristy, meant as a focal point for prayer. Before Mass, the servers and celebrant all face the Crucifix while the priest says, “Procedámus in pace.” [Let us go in peace], to which the servers respond, “In Nómine Christi. Amen.” [In the Name of Christ. Amen.] After Mass, all bow to the Crucifix and the celebrant says “Pro sit” [Let it be ], then the servers respond saying, “Pro Omnibus et singulis.” [For all, and for each one .]