Bishop Paprocki has written a pastoral letter to the people of his diocese recommending that the tabernacle be placed back in the sanctuary. I’ve got to say, I think this is just spectacular! I have noticed how the faithful have seem to have lost the true sense of the sacred.
It really irks me to see it, but people are constantly bowing before the altar, while simply passing by the tabernacle without even so much as a glance. There seems to be this idea that altar should be the focal point. Isn’t where all the action happens? The altar is where the elements of bread and wine are consecrated into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Let’s be clear. I am not suggesting we move the altar to the side. Neither am I refusing to acknowledge the very important role the altar plays at Mass. I also understand that the a relic resides inside every Catholic altar. This is certainly deserving of honor.
But ask yourself this question: “Why do we go to Mass?” Do we go to Mass just to celebrate the altar? Do we worship the relic that resides in the altar? Most certainly not! The reason we go to Mass is to celebrate the Eucharist.
There was a movement after the close of Vatican Council II to focus on the communal aspect of the Mass. I don’t mean the aspect of Holy Communion. I mean the aspect of community. Plus, there was the ecumenical movement. Though I am not a critic of the ecumenical movement per se, I do recognize that there have been abuses.
Protestants don’t generally recognize the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Having the tabernacle prominently placed in the sanctuary just emphasizes that we do recognize the Real Presence. To make Catholic churches seem more appealing to Protestants, there were those who wanted to move the tabernacle either out of the sanctuary, or at least off to the side. An altar prominently placed is bound to cause less offense to Protestants than a prominently placed tabernacle. So the tabernacles were moved.
This, I say, is an abuse. Nowhere do we see the Second Vatican Council advocating such a move. The Holy Eucharist was always meant to be the focus of the Mass. It still is. Placing the tabernacle back in a prominent place in the sanctuary can only serve to emphasize this point.
I would also mention that moving the tabernacle really won’t help ecumenism. We claim to be Christocentric, and to make the Eucharist the center of our lives. Yet, in the name of ecumenism, we have relegated the Eucharist to our side chapels, or moved it inconspicuously off to the side. I doubt such a compromise with our belief garners much respect in Protestant circles.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity