As a liturgical-minded Catholic blogger I can almost swoon when I see a pastoral letter with a Latin title regarding worship and the Eucharist.
In this case it is a letter from Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois called Ars celebrandi at adorandi (The Art of Celebrating and Worshiping). Add to the fact that it addresses the following topics I am quite swoon-ready:
- The Reservation and Adoration of the Holy Eucharist
- To bend the knee
- Processions with the Blessed Sacrament
I also enjoyed the introduction of Christ in history and beauty in the liturgy, but the following is excellent.
(19). The present legislation of the Church concerning the placement of the tabernacle states, “In accordance with the structure of each church and legitimate local customs, the Most Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is truly noble, prominent, conspicuous, worthily decorated, and suitable for prayer.” Regrettably, this is not always followed.
(20). In some churches and chapels, the tabernacle is set on a “side” altar in such a way that the tabernacle, though noble, is neither prominent nor readily visible. The same is often the case with the location of some Eucharistic chapels, whether they be in the nave itself, behind the sanctuary, or in another room. They are not always prominent or readily visible.
(21). The great majority of our parish churches and chapels were designed to house the tabernacle in the center of the sanctuary; removing the tabernacle from these sanctuaries has left a visible emptiness within the sacred space, almost as though the building itself longed for the return of the tabernacle. With the removal of the tabernacle from the center of the sanctuary, the architectural integrity of many churches and chapels has been severely compromised.
(23). With this in mind, 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.
His comment about “a visible emptiness within the sacred space” is so true, even in cases where the church building was not designed with he Tabernacle in the center.
I remember being at one parish Mass where they were just about to open the new church. The pastor addressed the placement of the Tabernacle since some parishioners were concerned about this. Unfortunately his explanation of why they had placed in a side area instead was to follow Vatican documents. I don’t doubt he believed this to be true since he probably heard this from some liturgist explainer and never actually checked the documents themselves. This lie was very widespread and accepted as true. Even worse was when we walked into the new Church after Mass to help move things I saw a rather hideous Tabernacle that looked like a totally unadorned cube made of bakelite. Thankfully that Tabernacle was replaced with a more suitable one shortly after we got a new bishop.
Still when I do go into that parish I always feel the “visible emptiness” behind the altar which is a plain curved wall with a couple of cloth banners.
I am also glad the bishop also answered this common objection.
(24). Some may object to this directive and point, by means of example, to the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome to suggest that tabernacles should not be located in the sanctuary. Saint Peter’s, of course, is different from the average church or chapel in many respects. Chief among these differences is the number of tourists who visit the Basilica each day, with no intention of praying to the Lord therein. These tourists enter this remarkable edifice built to the honor of the Prince of the Apostles simply to look around, to see the architectural beauty and perhaps to see some aspect of Catholic worship, but not to pray. The Eucharist is reserved in a special chapel into which tour groups are not permitted so that the reverence and adoration due the Eucharist can be properly accorded him by pilgrims seeking to speak with him.
(25). At the same time, it should be noted that the Eucharistic chapel in Saint Peter’s is itself larger than many of our parish churches. There is more than enough room to accommodate all those who wish to pray in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord in the chapel; it is not always so with every Eucharistic chapel in this Diocese.
The Cathedral in my Diocese of St. Augustine does have a fairly large side chapel with a beautifully adorned Tabernacle. Since the Cathedral is in the old part of the City of St. Augustine where there is a large amount of tourist foot traffic coming in to see the Cathedral it does make sense to have the Tabernacle here in this case.
Considering my recent parody regarding people not genuflecting I was also happy to see his writing on bending the knee. Eucharistic pieties besides being appropriate are also evangelical. As I recall Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton conversion to the Catholic faith came in part because of her visit with the Filicchi family in Italy where there home contained a private chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.
Now if my opinion mattered at all I would add one more thing (to quote the Book of Steve Jobs) to the Bishop’s excellent list in that I would also make patens mandatory. The use of patens takes seriously the Eucharist and that you would want to prevent even a crumb from falling to the floor. I have been delighted to find in my diocese that there are now three parishes (that I know of) that are using patens.
There is another aspect regarding handling the Eucharist that I have found devotional for myself. Watching the priest during the Purifcation of the Sacred Vessels. With one priest in particular when I watch him I am reminded of the scene in Michelangelo Pietà. He purifies the vessels with such tenderness and obvious attention that he so reminds me of Mary caring for Jesus. This is not always true as with some priests it seems more like a chore than devotion or worse the sacred vessels are just set aside for later.
One more aspect of Bishop Paprocki’s presentation on the diocesan site is that a PDF version was also made available. This version was nicely formatted with images and hopefully this will lead to a wider dissemination within his diocese.
Hat tip to CatholicVote