Friday, December 25, 2015


From 1903 until about 1972, the tabernacle at St. Joseph Church was in the high altar, dead center:
Then in 1972 until 2006, the tabernacle was placed in Our Lady's Chapel to the right of the sanctuary:

Then from 2006 until 2009 the tabernacle was placed in the Sacred Heart Chapel to the left of the Sanctuary:
Then from 2009 until the present age it was returned to its original location in the high altar or reredos. This altar has the Crucifixion scene above the tabernacle and the Last Supper scene below the tabernacle on the facade of the altar table itself:

After Vatican II at the demand of liturgists (not Vatican II, not the pope, but liturgists, mind you) tabernacles in many Catholic Churches were moved to side altars or separate chapels. Beautiful, ornate altars with magnificent tabernacles were dismantled and/or destroyed for cheap, wooden, ironing board wooden tables/altars.

My parish saw their tabernacle removed from its magnificent central focus in the historic high altar in the early 1970's. It was placed in Our Lady's Chapel, which fortunately is quite beautiful too. About 8 years ago, I place it back in its original position in our historic high altar.

I should be clear that the placement of the tabernacle in the center of the sanctuary is derived from a  popular devotional theology. Prior to tabernacles around the world being placed in symbolically second class places, all Catholics understand the purpose of the tabernacle and the appropriate signs of respect to be shown our Eucharistic Lord.  There was to be respectful silence, the genuflection of the knee when passing in front of our Lord in the tabernacle and it made the Church clearly a place of private prayer and devotion.

When tabernacles are removed from churches and placed in separate chapels, only a small minority of Catholics maintained the tradition of praying before the tabernacle and a majority of catholic are now clueless about the tabernacle's importance as they never visit these separate chapels ever.

Let's be clear, though, the tabernacle is not necessary for the celebration of Holy Mass and certainly the Mass is meant to make present through Sacrifice and Banquet the real Eucharistic Presence of our Lord. It is easy to understand that it is desirable that the tabernacle and the Reserved Most Blessed Sacrament not be the object of one's devotion during the actual celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

But with that said, it is a very good and holy thing that tabernacles are being restored to the rightful place of honor in the sanctuaries of our churches:


From the Wisconsin State Journal: 

At area Catholic churches, the tabernacle, 'Christ's dwelling place,' moves to center stage

ASHTON — Like centuries of Catholic priests before him, the Rev. Tait Schroeder consecrated the communion bread at a midday Mass last week, turning it into what the denomination’s faithful believe is the actual body of Jesus Christ.

After offering the sacramental bread — referred to as the Eucharistic host — to parishioners, Schroeder walked the unused portion to an ornate, safe-like box behind him at the front of the sanctuary.

In this secure shrine, called a tabernacle, the host would dwell until needed for the next Mass, available all the while for the faithful to pray before it or for Schroeder to take it to home-bound parishioners.

As Christians around the world mark the birth of Christ in Bethlehem this Christmas season, many Madison-area Catholics are learning more about the profound role of the tabernacle in their parishes. Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino has directed priests to move the tabernacle to a prominent spot at the center of the sanctuary at all diocesan churches.

The directive was announced at an annual gathering of priests in September and could affect about half of the 134 worship sites in the diocese, although no exact count is available, said Patrick 
Gorman, director of the diocesan office of worship, which coordinates liturgical matters for the bishop and will be leading the effort. At these churches, the tabernacle may be off to one side of the sanctuary or in a separate side chapel altogether.

Because church law requires that a tabernacle be immovable and made of solid material, the directive will require some cost and effort at some parishes, Gorman said. The bishop is giving priests three years to accomplish the goal, until October 2018.

Gorman said the bishop’s intent is to place more emphasis and reverence on the Lord’s presence at the Eucharist, the term used by Roman Catholics for communion.

“This isn’t just another piece of furniture in the sanctuary,” Gorman said. “It is housing the living God.”

Morlino had been moving in this direction for a decade or more, encouraging priests in general to relocate tabernacles and requiring it during parish renovation projects, Gorman said.
St. Peter Catholic Church, where Schroeder is priest, is an example of what Morlino considers an ideal placement of a tabernacle, according to the diocese. The neo-gothic church, constructed in 1901, is in Ashton, an unincorporated Dane County community northwest of Middleton.

The tabernacle is at the central axis of the church, right behind the communion table and part of a soaring, decorative high altar that includes an array of statues and religious iconography.

“It really is the focal point,” Schroeder said of the tabernacle. “It draws our hearts and minds to Christ and to our belief that he is really present with us.”
Schroeder said the tabernacle at St. Peter had moved around some over the decades, residing for a time off to the side of the sanctuary. His predecessor moved it back to its current, original spot.

Following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, there was a movement toward placing tabernacles to the sides of sanctuaries or to locate them in smaller chapels within the larger church buildings, Gorman said. One thought behind this was that the host could be more respectfully worshipped in a separate, quieter space, away from such events as wedding rehearsals, or, as is often the case with large cathedrals, tourist groups, he said.

While the motivation may have been sound, “in reality, the tabernacle ended up just being bypassed by people,” Gorman said. “It didn’t accomplish what it set out to do. I think most priests would agree with that.”

The tabernacle at the Ashton church is built into an elaborate wooden structure, but this does not need to be the case in every church, Gorman said. Some tabernacles are on pedestals that can be unbolted and moved to a more central spot with relatively little effort, he said.

“I think, in most places, there will be a solution that will not be very costly,” he said.
St. Bernard Catholic Church on Madison’s East Side is in the process of moving its tabernacle from a side of the sanctuary to the front as part of a much larger $240,000 restoration project that includes new carpeting and upgrades to electrical and sound systems, said the Rev. Michael Radowicz.

“I was aware of the bishop’s desire to have the tabernacle front and center, and that did play an important part in the project,” he said. “It wasn’t, however, the sole reason for beginning the project.”
Some parishioners are very happy about moving the tabernacle, while others are taking some time to warm to the idea, he said.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” Radowicz said of the varied opinions. “I will point out, though, that I needed to go to the parishioners to ask for financial support so we could do the project. I received the support, so it’s my feeling that there are more in support than not. I also feel that once the parishioners see the project completed, they’ll be pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

The Rev. Brian Wilk is pastor of a Catholic church in Middleton that also is named St. Bernard. When the church, built in 1959, was remodeled in the late 1980s, the tabernacle was moved to a chapel off the sanctuary, he said. During Mass, Wilk or a deacon must go to the side chapel to retrieve the host.
Wilk said he’s just begun talking to the parish council about the need to move the tabernacle to the center of the sanctuary. There are no definitive plans yet, but he said he hopes the project can be undertaken in 2016, perhaps as part of other improvements.

“I like the idea,” he said of making the tabernacle more prominent. “There’s the practicality of having the host close at hand when celebrating Mass. And then there’s what it represents. I think it can lead to a more reverent nature in the church building itself.”


Don said...

Merry Christmas, Father.

I am visiting my family in my sister's new home in northwestern Connecticut. At the Vigil Mass yesterday, we were treated to an apology for the Church by a "sister" dressed in completely secular clothes, then I was scolded by the priest and told it was "deeply offensive" to do so.

To be honest, I felt honored to be treated with a minutiae of the contempt many of the Saints were treated and took it as a humbling experience.

Don said...

Oh and of course the Tabernacle was nowhere to be found in this Church.

Rood Screen said...

Although Pope Paul VI said the tabernacle is "the living heart of each of our churches", the experts seem to have turned the tabernacle into an "appendix". I can understand the use of side chapels for the Reservation, but I can't see any liturgical or theological justification for asymmetrical placements of the tabernacle within the sanctuary itself. If a priest or liturgical expert is concerned about the tabernacle becoming a distraction during Mass, then the simple solution is to put a veil over it, or an altar card in front of it. Problem solved.

May we once again adore Our Lord's Presence as the shepherds adored Him in His infancy!

Don said...

Let me clarify the Priest told me it was deeply offensive to receive the Holy Eucharist on my knees.

Anonymous said...

" the shepherds adored Him in his infancy"!...?

Was the manger placed symmetrically within the stable itself? Was it veiled, or was there an altar card in front of it?

Rood Screen said...


St. Joseph had it Feng Shui'd just before the shepherds got there. The Body was veiled in swaddling clothes. There was no Mass yet, so not altar cards.

George said...

Oh so long ago, the All-Powerful God, from Whom all that exists was created, and from Whom all things were brought into existence, entered into our world as a helpless infant. The Light of the world was revealed in the darkness of a cave. The Son of God, the Second Person of the Triune Divinity, to Whom we creatures owe our existence and dependence, descended from Heaven to become dependent upon a creature He sustains. He who is Omnipotent, came into the world as a powerless infant. He did this for our benefit, to redeem us, so that just as He was born to us and entered into our existence, we could also be born again by the living water of Baptism, and thereby enter into His.
On this day, Love and Mercy became Incarnate in human flesh. As the angels and shepherds rejoiced so we rejoice. God gave the world the greatest of gifts. He willingly too on on our human nature in order to redeem us . It is a gift which He so generously continues to give to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Agnes said...

At the Polish parish I attend we've been very fortunate to always have had the tabernacle placed on the high altar. Unfortunately, the high altar isn't currently in use, but maybe some day ...

Mark Thomas said...

It is interesting that we read and hear constantly about such problems of profound ignorance of the Faith among Catholics, weak Catholic identity, chattering and lack of respect for God during Mass..."tabernacles in many Catholic Churches were moved to side altars or separate chapels. Beautiful, ornate altars with magnificent tabernacles were dismantled and/or destroyed for cheap, wooden, ironing board wooden tables/altars."

None of the above applies to communities who have preserved the Traditional Roman Mass. Wreckovation is unheard of where the TLM is offered. The desacralization of the Mass is unheard of where the TLM is offered. The collapse of the Faith is unheard of where the TLM is offered.

I realize that the official party line from Rome and bishops is that the liturgical revolution has been a tremendous success. However, the good news is that more and more Catholics each day awaken to the reality that the Latin Church must return to the TLM to rebuild the Faith.

Someday, Rome and our bishops will also awaken to that reality.


Mark Thomas

Rood Screen said...

Mark Thomas,

I understand your point, but it must be admitted that the generation of Catholics that desacralized churches and rejected the Apostolic Tradition was itself formed by the traditional order of Mass. The irreverent priests, angry nuns and contracepting couples of the Seventies and Eighties all new the older Mass very well. It is the generations formed by the new Mass that are on the forefront of converting the Church back to reverence, belief, and obedience.

gob said...

It's amazing how many supercilious, holier-than-thou, know-it-alls populate these halls. Many seem to make admonishing the sinner their full time job.

Mark Thomas said...

JBS, your are correct. Catholics who, decades ago, initiated the desacralization of the Church, had been formed by the TLM. Modernists were rampant throughout the Church prior to Vatican II. Their opportunity arrived during the 1960s to wreck the Church.

The TLM is not magical. Even when in place throughout the Latin Church, the TLM did not eliminate the filth that existed within the Church. Yes, the person who assists at the TLM must open his heart and mind to the graces that flow from the TLM. But, as compared to the Novus Ordo, the TLM offers a more powerful sense of Catholic identity.

The TLM inspires solemnity, sobriety, beauty, and majestic worship. Wreckovated churches are out of place for the TLM. A priest who plays the showman is out of place at the TLM. Catholics who chatter during Mass are out of place at the TLM.

Laymen who overrun sanctuaries are out of place at the TLM. Communion in the hand is out of place at the TLM. Drums, banjoes, guitars, and pianos are out of place at the TLM.

From the TLM flows the natural sense that the Catholic Church is the True Church. From the TLM flows the strong sense that non-Catholics must convert to Catholicism as that is God's will.

From the TLM flows a powerful sense of Catholic identity.

Only to a Catholic who has closed his heart and mind to the TLM does the all of the above cease to flow. That is why the folks who decades ago desacralized the Church were determined to overthrow the TLM.

The only way to foist the post-Vatican II liturgical/spiritual revolution upon the Church was via the virtual elimination of the TLM from the hearts and minds of the Faithful. The very folks who had overthrown the TLM acknowledged that the TLM was simply too "Catholic" for their tastes and served to impede their revolution in question.

Yes, even when the TLM was in place, sin abounded within the Church. But what also abounded then within the Church was a powerful sense of Catholicism that flowed from the TLM. Compared to today, the sense of Catholic identity at that time was far more prevalent throughout the (Latin) Church.

That is why the (Latin) Church must restore the Traditional Roman Mass.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald-permitting, to follow up on my reply to JBS...

Following attendance at a Novus Ordo Mass, who on earth says the following:

-- "I have the sudden urge to worship God via Latin."

-- "I have the sudden urge to explore Gregorian Chant."

-- "From now on, I wish to kneel to receive Holy Communion (on the tongue)."

-- "I have the strong sense now to return to meatless Fridays."

-- "I have the strong sense now to embrace Traditional Catholic fasting practices."

-- "I have the strong sense now to convert non-Catholics to the Church."

-- "I would like our pastor to install an altar rail in our church."

What woman leaves the Novus Ordo Mass with the following in mind: "From now on at Mass, I wish to wear a veil."

The collective answer to all of the above is "nobody" as that is not what flows from the Novus Ordo. Conversely, it has been the revival of the TLM that has inspired certain bishops and priests to acknowledge that we must restore beauty to wreckovated return the Holy Tabernacle to front and center within our revive Latin and Gregorian revive ad orientem restore ancient fasting and abstinence practices...and so forth.

Again, that sense of Catholic identity is not designed to flow from the Novus Ordo.

Our Churchmen have acknowledged that the revolutionary changes within the (Latin) Church have flowed from the Novus Ordo. Example: On November 26, 1969 A,D,, Pope Blessed Paul VI acknowledged the revolutionary and novel nature of the Novus Ordo:

"Our Dear Sons and Daughters: We ask you to turn your minds once more to the liturgical innovation of the new rite of the Mass. A new rite of the Mass: a change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries.

"This is something that affects our hereditary religious patrimony, which seemed to enjoy the privilege of being untouchable and settled. This change will affect the ceremonies of the Mass.

"We must prepare for this many-sided inconvenience. It is the kind of upset caused by every novelty that breaks in on our habits. We shall notice that pious persons are disturbed most, because they have their own respectable way of hearing Mass, and they will feel shaken out of their usual thoughts and obliged to follow those of others. Even priests may feel some annoyance in this respect.

"First of all, we must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing. It is here that the greatest newness is going to be noticed, the newness of language. No longer Latin, but the spoken language will be the principal language of the Mass.

"The introduction of the vernacular will certainly be a great sacrifice for those who know the beauty, the power and the expressive sacrality of Latin. We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance.

"We will lose a great part of that stupendous and incomparable artistic and spiritual thing, the Gregorian chant."

We must return the TLM to our parishes to strengthen Catholic identity within the Church. Yes, that will require much time and effort. In the meantime, within a reasonable timeframe, parishes must imbue the Novus Ordo with TLM practices to strengthen Catholic identity. That, in turn, will open the door to increased acceptance of the TLM among Catholics.

Let us work to end the Liturgical War within the Latin Church.


Mark Thomas

Michael A said...

Did Pope Francis institute as a similar directive in Buenos Aires? Unfortunately a rhetorical question.

Rood Screen said...

Mark Thomas,

You may be right, but I do think it would be a shame if we never gave the Paul VI Mass, celebrated in a traditional manner, a genuine chance. Granted, it's easier for a priest to add an EF Mass to the parish schedule than to reform a wayward OF Mass, but I'm hoping a future pope, or large number of prayerful bishops, will use their apostolic authority to insist that we give the OF a real try.

Rood Screen said...


Whatever it is that you hope to read here, perhaps you could lead by example. It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. If your thoughts are correct, and if your proposals are best, then explain them in a logical and attractive manner, and you might just win people over.

Mark Thomas said...

JBS, I believe that during the earlier and mid-1960s, Rome could have initiated a peaceful and successful (in terms of holding the Latin Church together) liturgical reform. "Everybody" at that time realized, for example, that the time for some degree of liturgical vernacularization had arrived.

Archbishop Lefevbre, for example, desired to vernacularize much of the Mass of the Catechumens.

Instead of peaceful and modest liturgical reform, we received radical reforms that continue to plague the Church. The Latin Church is in desperate need of a new and sensible liturgical reform.

I realize that it would be destructive to remove suddenly the Novus Ordo from the Church. There are Catholics who desire the immediate removal of the Novus Ordo. That, of course, is a pipe-dream. That won't happen. That should not happen as that would only deepen the crisis of Faith that exists within the Church. Yes...said crisis could grown even more profound.

Rome must do everything possible to imbue the Novus Ordo with Holy Tradition. That won't happen overnight. The "reform of the reform" must unfold in sensible fashion. But the Novus Ordo is in dire need of reform.

At the same time, Rome should work diligently to ensure that the TLM is restored to Latin Church parishes everywhere. In that regard, Pope Francis must offer the TLM from time to time. Actions speak louder than words. A Pope who offered the TLM would help greatly to restore liturgical peace to the Church.


Mark Thomas

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mark Thomas - The Novus Ordo is not lacking in Holy Tradition. It is every bit as Traditional as the EF. It does lack traditions, but that lack is not necessarily a bad thing. Most cars nowadays lack running boards, most washing machines lack mangles, and most hospitals have a fair number of female doctors working in them. Change can be good.

Mark Thomas said...

Dear Father Kavanaugh, the Novus Ordo lacks in many respects Holy Tradition. As I noted here earlier, Pope Blessed Paul VI termed the "new rite of the Mass" a "liturgical innovation".

Sorry, but the OF is not "every bit of Traditional as the EF". As for your comment that "change can be good", well, it would serve Holy Church well to change from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Roman Mass.

Now, should our (Latin) Churchmen wish to continue as is with the Novus Ordo...well, then we need to accept the reality that in the absence of a miracle, Catholicism is on life support throughout much of the West. Catholicism in Mexico, Central, and South America is in steep decline. The Church faces virtual death throughout much of the world.

But that is up to our Churchmen. So be it.


Mark Thomas

Michael A said...

Father K,

But what happens to a car when you take away 4 tires and the steering wheel? Does it run without an engine? The "reforms" of the EF Mass might be more like these kinds of changes rather than real improvements. Many businesses go under when they try innovations because of stupid decisions. So change doesn't always work.

Rood Screen said...

In the Eighties, New Coke (the soft drink, not Crack Cocaine) was a reasonable idea, given the competition from Pepsi, but...

TJM said...

Those "liturgists" were most successful at emptying churches

tjm said...

Father Kavanaugh is part of the problem, not the solution. You're wasting your time with him, because like typical "liberals" he cannot admit error

Rood Screen said...

Father Kavanaugh frequently defends the OF Mass as a valid expression of the Apostolic Tradition. He's right.

Adlai said...

Wow! This is rich. Pater Ignotus (a.k.a. Father K) saying, "Change can be good". I'm still waiting for him to change his obstinate ways and give a yes or no as to whether or not he'd allow the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at his parish if a stable group, like the 15 at Most Holy Trinity, requests it. (He admitted the number in one of his older posts.)

I'm betting that he's not willing to change his stuck-in-the-70s, modernist thinking one iota. It looks like in his eyes, change is good for faithful, traditional Catholics, but never for him.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Mark Thomas - No, the OF does not lack elements of Holy Tradition. Elements of traditions have been eliminated.

Michael A - We haven't taken the wheels, the engine, or the steering wheel off the car.

TJM/tjm - I admit error when I am shown to be in error. Disagreeing with you or not sharing your opinions does not mean that I am in error.

Adlai - I've answered your Q previously.

JBS - But wait, there's more! The OF is not merely a "valid expression of Apostolic Tradition." It is as valid an expression of Apostolic Tradition as the EF.

Gene said...

Ahem, in my not so humble opinion, the OF as generally celebrated is liturgical garbage, an insult to both God and man.

Adlai said...

Fr MJK: No, you never answered my question. Still waiting after all these years for a yes or no answer. If you're so certain about giving me an answer, then I'll need a reference to the post.