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ALTAR-CARDS: Three cards, containing certain prayers of the mass, placed on the altar in Roman Catholic churches, the central card being larger than those placed at either end. Their introduction dates from the sixteenth century, when the middle card began to be employed as an aid to the memory of the celebrant and to relieve him from the necessity of continually referring to the missal. When the reading of the beginning of St. John’s Gospel was prescribed, the card on the Gospel side was added, and later, to make the arrangement appear symmetrical, the third card came into use. In masses celebrated by a bishop, the practise anterior to the sixteenth century is maintained by the substitution of a book called the canon, from which are read the prayers usually printed on altar-cards. Since most of these prayers are to be said secretly or inaudibly, altar-cards are sometimes called secret-cards.

John T. Creagh.

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