This past summer as I was
preparing some picture collages
for my parents’ 50th
wedding anniversary, my dad
pulled out an old cigar box and handed
it to me.
“There might be something in here
you can use,” he said.
I had never seen the box before. And
as my dad’s partner-in-crime on all
things genealogical or historical in our
family, I have to admit I was a bit surprised
by the box. When I opened it up,
it contained pictures I had heard of,
but never before seen. There was a program
from a grade school play he and
his friends had participated in, prayer
and funeral cards, and much more.
But to understand the importance
of this box, I must first provide some
background. Both of my dad’s parents
died before he was a teenager. And most
of the family photos were lost when the
cabinet in which they were kept was
donated to charity—with the photos
still in it.
Tucked away inside this little box
were items that my dad valued and
held most precious. You could say it
was his own private tabernacle.
A Sacred Vessel
Of course, tabernacles in churches are
quite a bit more ornate than my dad’s cigar box, but the message is the same.
Both hold within them items of great
Tabernacles emerged in the Middle
Ages as receptacles for storing the
Blessed Sacrament. Over time, they
have undergone changes in design and
numerous debates over placement.
In the church setting, the tabernacle
is the place where hosts that have
already been consecrated are placed.
Since we believe that once these hosts
become the Body of Christ they cannot
revert back to bread, they are reserved
in the tabernacle until they can be
used. Those hosts are reserved for distribution
to the sick and dying and for
adoration outside of Mass.
In a parish, the tabernacle is probably
located in the sanctuary, on a side
altar or in a chapel. In some cases, it is
on the main altar. Wherever it is
located, according to canon law, the
tabernacle should be in a place “distinguished,
decorated, and suitable for prayer.”
And by the very nature of what the
tabernacle holds, it lends itself to people
paying visits for prayer and adoration.
The tabernacle is obviously an important
part of our faith. And while we
can’t take it with us outside of church,
we can carry its meaning into our
Check it out. Do you know where
the tabernacle is located in your parish
church? If it’s not on the main altar, go
and find where it’s located. Then take
some time to reflect or say a short
prayer before the tabernacle.
Create your own. Inside the tabernacle
resides the most important thing
to Catholics—the Eucharist. If your
family were to have a tabernacle, what
would be in it? At dinner one evening,
go around the table and have everyone
say what they would place in the family’s
tabernacle and why.
What is your tabernacle? At the
foot of my bed, I have a hope chest
that my husband, Mark, bought me
when we got married. Over the years I
have filled it with items that hold special
meaning to me. Inside are notes
Mark and I wrote to each other, my
diaries from over the years, one of my
grandpa’s hats he always wore, cards
from special people and many other
items. Some of them I’m willing to
share with others and some are very
personal to me and kept to myself.
Do you have a special box or container
in which you keep special items?
Every once in a while, take some time
to go through it and reminisce. If you
come across an item that reminds you
of someone who has passed away, say
a brief prayer for that person.