The railing which guards the sanctuary and separates the latter from the body of the church. It is also called the communion-rail as the faithful kneel at it when receiving Holy Communion.
It is made of carved wood, metal, marble, or other precious material; it should be about two feet six inches high, and on the upper part from six to nine inches wide. The "Rituale Romanum" (tit. iv, cap. ii, n. I) prescribes that a clean white cloth be extended before those who receive Holy Communion. This cloth is to be of fine linen, as it is solely intended as a sort of corporal to receive the particles which may by chance fall from the hands of the priest. It is usually fastened on the sanctuary side and when in use is drawn over the top of the rail. It should extend the full length of the rail, and be about two feet wide, so that the communicant, taking it in both hands, may hold it under his chin. Its very purpose suggests that it is not to be made of lace or netting, although there is nothing to forbid its having a border of fine lace or embroidery.
For a return of the altar rail I am currently fighting at my parish. Recently my husband attended a Catholic men's group and a parish historian spoke. He related that shortly after Vatican II the entire parish came one Sunday for Holy Mass and the altar rail was GONE. No preparation, no explanation, no nothing. Just gone....I choke up just thinking about it. The priests had it removed and no one knows where it went. Next to go was the pulpit....
God have mercy on your people, save us from wolves in sheep's clothing who lead your flock astray and do not instruct the faithful of Your True Presence in Holy Communion. May we again recieve you with due reverence on our knees. Amen+