new churches are built, or old ones remodeled, why is the tabernacle taken from the main
body of the church? Most Blessed Sacrament chapels can accommodate only about six people.
Where Should the Tabernacle Be?
by recalling that at the Last Supper Jesus consecrated bread and wine and gave them
to his apostles to eat and drink. No one suggests that anything remained to be kept
and reverenced or put in a special place.
It was only with time that Christians began
to reserve some of the consecrated Eucharist. And their purpose was to have the sacrament
available to give to the sick or dying. Thus, some place or container was necessary
to reserve the sacrament with proper dignity and reverence.
Once Christians began to reserve the Blessed
Sacrament for the sick, they also began to adore Christ in the reserved Eucharist,
and spend time in prayer and reflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Associated
with these periods of adoration and prayer came public eucharistic devotions such as
holy hours, processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament and exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament with Benediction following. These developments came about because the faithful,
led by the Spirit, came to appreciate many aspects of the Eucharist over time.
All of these actions were distinct from
the celebration of the Eucharist, where we reenact the Last Supper and make present
again the sacrifice of Christ.
The bishops at Vatican II attempted to
reemphasize the ancient, communal aspects of the Eucharist and Christ's presence. Today's
liturgists and Church leaders believe that it is confusing to call for Christ to become
present in the eucharistic prayer when the sacrament is already present on the altar
in the tabernacle. It divides our attention.
When we are celebrating Mass, our attention
should be devoted to the eucharistic action and all that it impliesnot on the
Thus, the Church urges that the places
of celebrating Mass and reserving the Blessed Sacrament be distinct, that the altar
and tabernacle be separated architecturally and structurally.
Speaking practically, a separate chapel
will provide more quiet and foster greater reverence than the main body of a church,
which has people coming and going, choir practices, wedding rehearsals, etc.
If providing a special place for adoration
of the Blessed Sacrament is seen as minimizing the presence of Christ, how do we explain
St. Peter's in Rome and the other great basilicas and cathedrals with their special
Blessed Sacrament chapels that were in place long before Vatican II?
If the parish wants to have special devotions,
with a large number participating, the Blessed Sacrament can be exposed on the main
altar and put back in the tabernacle afterward.
does the priest dress the way he does at Mass?
the first three centuries there were no special clothes for the presider or celebrant
of the Eucharist. The celebrant wore ordinary street clothes.
Late in the third century or early in the
fourth century writers begin to mention special garb for liturgical actions. Sts. Athanasius,
Jerome and John Chrysostom all mentioned liturgical garb for clerics. They particularly
referred to the orarion, a primitive stole. The Council of Laodicea (343-381) often
referred to vestments for sacred functions.
Today's vestments have their origins in
the ordinary clothes of the later Greco-Roman world. The alb, a long loose-fitting
garment, was worn around the house. The more decorative chasuble was worn over it in
As Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., in
Tour of a Catholic Church", points out, "If you attended Mass in fourth-century
Rome, the leader of the liturgical assembly would be dressed in much the same way as
the priest today vests for Sunday Mass. But at that time, everyone in the church would
be wearing an alb and chasuble!"
Can a Priest Retire?
the Catholic priest is a representative of the apostles and every day changes bread
and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, then how can priests and bishops
retire and in effect say, "I'm not doing this anymore"?
The priest, I thought, was next to God,
the person who would always be there. How can the person who hears my confession
and gives me absolution say, "I'm not doing this anymore"?
frankly, I don't understand your anger at the thought priests might retire. But perhaps
you and I do not have the same idea of retirement.
Priests may retire from active ministry
for a variety of reasons. Like other people, they get old, weak and sick. Most are
unable at 70 to stand in a classroom for five or six hours a day. They do not have
the energy to run a parish of 1,000 families. Some are forced into nursing or retirement
homes for the same kind of help other old people need.
Few, unless they are blind, deaf or bedridden,
stop praying or celebrating the Eucharist. Many who are able continue to give what
help they can in parishes, convents, nursing homes and other institutions.
There are a lot of heroic priests out there
who have labored many years with little attention then or now. Where I live, many parishes
are glad to have a retired priest take up residence there and offer help with daily
and Sunday Masses and Confessions.
Old age doesn't pass a priest by simply
because he is a priest. I know. Years of sickness have limited my activity. For those
still able to travel and enjoy the relaxation of a few years, I rejoice.
Lodgings in Europe
are considering a trip to Europe, traveling from Rome, north and west to France and
into Switzerland. Are there any monasteries or convents that put up travelers, and
how can we obtain that information?
can write the Office for United States Visitors to the Vatican (North American College,
Casa Santa Maria, Via dell' Umilta 30, 00187 Rome, Italy) for a list of some pensiones and
small hotels run by religious communities and others in the city of Rome and near the
U.S. and Worldwide Guide to Retreat
Center Guest Houses is available from CTS Publications (P.O. Box 8355, Newport
Beach, CA 92660). It covers Europe from Great Britain and Ireland to France, Belgium,
Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Malta and Sweden.