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What's in Your Tabernacle?
By Susan Hines-Brigger


A Sacred Vessel
Embracing the Message
For Teens: Thinking Outside the Box
For Kids: A Treasure Box

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 importance.

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, conspicuous, beautifully 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 everyday lives:

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.


The concept of a tabernacle is one that can easily lend itself to other aspects of our lives. For instance, since we are made in the image of God, our bodies can also be considered a tabernacle, which houses all of the gifts and traits with which we have been endowed. Therefore, it makes sense that we should treat it with the same reverence.

That means taking care of both your physical body—by eating right and exercising—and your mental body—by managing stress and taking time to relax or pray. It also means caring for your body with the choices you make concerning things such as smoking and drinking. No matter what the means, take time to indulge in whatever helps you care for this wonderful gift you have been given.


Underneath my 10-year-old daughter’s bed is a special box in which Maddie keeps all of her “treasures,” or the things she holds dear. It contains cards and notes from special friends and family members, school papers, awards and many other items. She even decorated the outside with things that represent her personality and interests.

Make your own special box in which to keep your treasures. It can be extravagant or as simple as a shoe box. Decorate it as you wish. Gather magazines and cut out pictures, draw or paint images on the box.

The important thing is for you to fill it up with items that mean the most to you.


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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