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The Tabernacle Holds the Heart of the Church

06/24/2014 Comments (19)

When my mother would start teaching catechism to a new group of kids, she would find out what they knew by asking them a single question: "Why do we go to Mass?" 

So ask yourself that question. What's your answer? There are lots of answers, right? We go to hear the word of God, to receive grace and various spiritual gifts, to pray with other believers, and so on.  But above all, there is one answer, and everything else is secondary at best: we go to worship God. We go to Mass to worship Him in a way that is so rich and profound that every other human experience of the good, the true, and the beautiful is subsumed into the experience of bearing witness to and participating in the sacrifice of the Mass and receiving Christ Himself. We go to worship God, because that's where God is, and He wants us there with Him.

If you that that's why we're there, then ask yourself another question: why would the tabernacle not be front and center? I struggle hard to believe the best about people's intentions, but I cannot find anything good in the impulse to put the tabernacle away, to the side, out of sight, hard to find, easy to overlook or even forget. Why would you do that? Why would you make it hard to do the thing you're there to do? How would a body function if the living, beating heart were shifted off somewhere else, to a left foot or an elbow, maybe stashed off site in your coat pocket? What kind of body would that be, and how would it function? And why?

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has issued a pastoral letter on liturgy and adoration, in which he directs churches in his diocese to be moved or restored to a "visible, prominent and noble space":

In order that more of the faithful will be able to spend time in adoration and prayer in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord, I direct that in the churches and chapels of our diocese, tabernacles that were formerly in the center of the sanctuary, but have been moved, are to be returned as soon as possible to the center of the sanctuary in accord with the original architectural design. Tabernacles that are not in the center of the sanctuary or are otherwise not in a visible, prominent and noble space are to be moved to the center of the sanctuary; tabernacles that are not in the center of the sanctuary but are in a visible, prominent and noble space may remain.

In a parish not too far from us, a new pastor came on board, and the first thing he did was to bring in a new tabernacle -- shining, golden, unmistakable, and he had it installed front and center. He assured the congregation, in his friendly, reassuring way that it would be at no cost to them. I'm not sure how he funded the project. Maybe he found a donor; maybe he paid for it out of pocket. But it was the first thing he did. Why? Because that is why we go to Mass. There were other jobs to do and things to fix, but the tabernacle is what he fixed first, because why would you not do that?

More of this kind of pastor, please. More of this. 

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About Simcha Fisher

Simcha Fisher
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Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs at I Have to Sit Down. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and nine children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.