Bishop to Pastor: “I am very concerned about the comportment of the faithful in your parish church…”

A kind reader sent me a fine article from Creative Minority Report.

My emphases and comments.

Bishop Murphy: No One Knows Where the Blessed Sacrament Is!

As I reported last week, my Pastor informed us that at the request of Bishop Murphy (Diocese of Rockville Centre) that the church would be moving the tabernacle back to the center of the church. [I nearly fell of my chair at this point.] I wasn’t sure at the time if this was a general request or something limited to my parish. If it was limited to my parish, what provoked this request? Well now I know. The Bishop visited at confirmation time and was not pleased with what he saw. My Pastor, Father Joe, printed the request of the Bishop this week in the bulletin for all to read along with his response. …

Dear Father Coschignano:

Recently I had the pleasure and the privilege of confirming young men and women in your parish. [So now we have the context: lots of young people with parents, friends and relatives who probably don't go to church very often.] It was a beautiful moment and one that I very much appreciated. I thank you for the warm welcome that you gave to me and also for the way that you and all those who work with you strive so much to make the experience of worshiping the Lord such a fulfilling and fruitful one. [This is nice, but there is more coming.]

As I mentioned to you during that day, I am very concerned about the comportment [that "behavior" for those of you in Columbia Heights] of the faithful in your parish church prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. I am not blaming anyone. I am not trying to say that anyone is at fault. I am simply saying that the comportment is not compatible with proper preparation for the celebration of Mass. This interferes with the ability of the people to enter into the liturgy and have the kind of active participation that the Second Vatican Council calls for.  [We can pick up from this that there was general chaos in the church.]

In my judgment, a major reason for this is the fact that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel that is so removed from the main body of the church that no one knows where the Blessed Sacrament is. [This is great!  How many times have you goone into a church and not been able to find the Blessed Sacrament?  At the same time, I am wondering how many of the people involved in the chaos before this Mass know what the Blessed Sacrament is?] I don’t mean that literally but I mean that conscious awareness of’ the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is lacking to those who enter the main body of your parish church. [Right.] This is further hampered by the fact that the music ministry is set up in front of the doors into that chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. [You priests out there.... "GET THE BAND OUT OF THE WAY!!"] That means that anyone who wishes to go and pray needs to go through the paraphernalia of those who provide music. I find this problematic. [I find it sacreligious.... but bishops need to use understatement.]

In the document of the United States Bishops “Built of Living Stones – Art, Architecture, and Worship” [GAG.  But note the creative use this bishop makes of the document.   Remember that he doesn't have to cite any document at all in giving this directive, but this could help the pastor provide citations for what he has to do.] which is the normative document of the Bishops Conference in the United States on liturgical matters § 74 §, it is clear that the Blessed Sacrament is to be placed in such a way in the body of the Church that whether it is in the chapel or not, it must be visible to those who come to worship. [Is your parish church in keeping with this?  In the USA or not?] This is consistent with the documents of the Second Vatican Council as well as with the most recent documents of the Holy See including Redemptionis Sacramentum. Therefore, I am directing you to begin a process of locating the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament in the main body of the church. The most simple thing would be to place it in the center of the reredos in the place which clearly set up to have a tabernacle, [In other words... put it back where it belongs.] and where at the last liturgy I celebrated there was a bouquet of flowers.  However you do this, I would like to have you give me by September [It is now October.  I wonder what happened.] of this your plan for the relocation of the tabernacle. Relocating the tabernacle in and of itself will not be sufficient. [!] Therefore, I am asking to begin a process of educating your people about the reverence that is due to the Blessed Sacrament when they enter church and so long as they are in church.  If over summertime and into the Fall you can do a series of articles in the bulletin announcements from the pulpit or a combination of these and other things, I believe you would do a great service to the People of God in Saint John the Evangelist Parish you would have a parish that would become ever more closely united to the Lord and bear much fruit not only in terms of the spiritual life of your parishioners but also in other important elements for the life of the Church such as vocations to the priesthood.   [This is fantastic.  Yes!  A connection between the altar, the Blessed Sacrament and PRIESTS.]

Please do net see this as anything but an act of support for you and for the good work you do as pastor. [This is an important note.  Very often priests have found themselves abandoned by their bishops when they have tried to make changes exactly along the lines the bishop wants this priest to make.  A priest tries to initiate projecs to foster reverence in his church - some people complain to the bishop - the bishop sides with the complainers and writes to the priest "Don't be divisive."  So, this is one of the most important things the bishop wrote in his letter.  It would encourage the priest and let him know he has support instead of the usual attitude of "I'm without... win or tie."] You and I share the pastoral responsibility for Center Moriches. I would be remiss if I did not say this to you. I say it to you as my brother and as my collaborator with full confidence that you have both the love of your people and the pastoral skills good and holy priest to bring this about for the present and future good of the Body Christ in Center Moriches.

Please know that The Office Worship is at your disposal to help you in this process. If I can be of any help, you know that wish so to be.

With my prayers and best wishes, I am

Fraternally yours in Christ,
William Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre

What a great way to start the day! 

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36 Responses to Bishop to Pastor: “I am very concerned about the comportment of the faithful in your parish church…”

  1. RBrown says:

    The obvious answer to this unenlightened bishop is: The Early Church, blah, blah, blah . . . feeling the presence of Jesus, blah, blah, blah . . . joyous celebration, blah, blah, blah, . . . making liturgy, blah, blah, blah . . . spirit of Vatican II, blah, blah, blah . . .

  2. DoB says:

    If He is our King, He must get poll position. What I really like about this post is the understanding that he shows to the lambs. He knows that they are led blindly to the point they are at. The understanding he shows to his priest, who probably has been dying to move it for ages but was waiting for the nod. Great Bishop, people there are very lucky.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Exciting news!

  4. Thomasso says:

    A great letter from, clearly, a great bishop – and the day get’s better. It’s just been announced on the VIS that archbishop Marini has been moved to Eucharistic Congresses and Fr Marini is the new papal MC. Deo Gratias.

  5. Thom says:

    That’s pretty excellent. (But where in the world is Rockville Centre?)

  6. EDG says:

    Thom:

    Rockville Centre is on Long Island. It was a truly awful diocese for quite some time and I’m sure the place is stuffed with liturgical abuse of all kinds. Their new bishop is going to have his hands full, but this is a great start!

  7. Ave Maria says:

    I sure hate it when I go to a ‘catholic community’ worship space and cannot
    find the tabernacle, and , worse yet when I ask someone, they do not know
    either! I have had it happen more than once.

    In our round ‘woship space’ the noise before Mass gradually increases in
    decibles until the music gets going. After Mass, the noise breaks out even
    before the music ends. Naturally we sing about ourselves; isn’t that
    why we come to gather?

    One day, I hope to lose the cynacism but today does not appear to be the
    day.

    I have no expectations of seeing the extraordinary form of the mass
    in my town or in my diocese for the present. BUT the bishop turns
    75 next year and we can hope for better things.

  8. danphunter1 says:

    EDG,
    Bishop Murphy is not the new bishop of Rockville Centre.
    He has been the Ordinary since 2001, and this is the first time that he has spoken out against abuses in the diocese.
    It is gratifying to hear that His Excellency is changing his tune.
    God bless the Diocese of Rockville Center,{they sure need His Help}

  9. J. McDonald says:

    But where will they put the lovely bouquet of flowers if they have to put this tabernacle thingmabob in the place previously reserved for floral arrangements?

  10. danphunter1 says:

    Now let us hope His Excellency puts the tabernacle in his own cathedral:St Agnes, in Rockville Centre, directly center, behind the altar.
    The tabernacle in his cathedral, is shoved way off to an inconspicuous corner.
    Hopefully in setting a good example for all the churches in the diocese, the Bishop has made this change already.
    God bless.

  11. “Now let us hope His Excellency puts the tabernacle in his own cathedral:St Agnes, in Rockville Centre, directly center, behind the altar.”

    Not necessarily.

    Although not as common in North America, where cathedrals often began life as parish churches, it is traditional for a cathedral church or basilica to have a separate chapel for the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, it is my understanding, that when the bishop would celebrate the Mass anywhere, tradition would call for the tabernacle on that altar to be empty! Something to do with bearing the fullness of the sacrament of Orders. Or whatever.

  12. fxr2 says:

    Father Z,
    After my wife and I moved we found ourselves searching for a parrish church which would meet with our approval.
    The first parrish we attended was in the round, without kneelers. After we observed the Precious Blood concentrated in a glass pitcher, at the end of communion a female extrordinary minister of Holy Communion took the Ciborium containing the remaining Hosts off the altar and walked out of the church. After we of the few that actually knelt assumed a sitting position my wife whispered in my ear “Jesus has left the building”. Needless to say we didn’t return.
    The next parrish we attended was rectangular but the tabernacle was again hidden. There was however a prominent waterfall in the church probably to allow meditation to the soothing sounds of the water cascading during mass. I could not relax in this church either as I kept a constant look out for the rattle snakes that I was sure were to be passed among the congregation.
    I am very encouraged by the Bishop Murphy’s letter. We will pray for all Bishops and priests.
    FXR2

  13. RBrown says:

    Bishop Murphy is not the new bishop of Rockville Centre.
    He has been the Ordinary since 2001, and this is the first time that he has spoken out against abuses in the diocese.
    It is gratifying to hear that His Excellency is changing his tune.
    God bless the Diocese of Rockville Center,{they sure need His Help}
    Comment by danphunter1

    Maybe he has smelled the incense from the Pontifical Thurible.

  14. joe says:

    Every time I enter one of these churches (most recently, Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago yesterday) that plays “Where’s Waldo?” with the tabernacle I am reminded of Jn. 20:13.

    AMDG,

    -J.

  15. Veil Woman says:

    Bishop Murphy visited our parish in the spring in preparation for the retirement of our pastor of 26 years. In the middle of the Mass. Just before the consecration, there was the usual crowd in the sanctuary – the female cantor was kneeling on the floor at the side of the sanctuary area, some EM’s were standing with hands in the orans position looking very much like concelebrants, the altar servers were standing, one kneeling, the lector was sitting, vaguely hunched over as though not sure whether to kneel or sit or what. Bishop Murphy stopped and directed the altar servers and lectors to kneel for the consecration by actually pointing to the ground. He followed up with a phone call a couple of days
    later. Guess what? With the exception of the cantor, everyone is still standing, “concelebrating” or hunched over. . He seems to give direction wherever he goes, but is anyone listening? Apparently not. Our tabernacle is off to the side as well with a row of folding chairs facing the sanctuary and is nicely decorated with disgusting plastic plants and speakers and wires from one of the music groups. Prior to the Mass, we saw Bishop Murphy come to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, but not before he had to climb over all this junk to get to it.

  16. I was as suprised as Fr. Z to hear the news,a week ago Sunday, after the 7:30 Mass, when a breathless friend called to tell me the good news. The sight of the gorgeous traditional altar with nothing but a bouquet of artificial flowers where the Tabernacle should be, has always irritated me, as has the lack of reverence in the sanctuary. Thank you, Bishop Murphy for restoring reverence to my parish!

  17. Sid Cundiff says:

    There where the tabernacle is, there is a bishop’s heart. When I was in seminary, the liturgist like to hide the tabernacle behind shut doors during Mass and the Office, and we were to pretend that it wasn’t there.

  18. EDG says:

    danphunter:

    Thanks, I meant “relatively new,” but I actually didn’t realize he’d already been there 6 years now! It’s interesting that he should suddenly discover these things. Perhaps he feels he has more support from Rome now. Certainly, he’s getting better “modeled behavior,” as the schoolmarms call it, than before.

  19. danphunter1 says:

    Leticia Velasquez,
    I did not realize that St Johns had such a beautiful altar,{as seen on your website}
    Maybe Father Jack Murphy from down the street from St Johns can offer the Tridentine Mass.
    Do you know if Father Coshignano would be open to this?
    Wasn’t there an older St Johns as of 10 years ago?
    When I drove past it 2 years ago, a new modern looking structure had replaced the old pretty wood frame church building.
    Is the present main altar a remnant of the older church?
    God bless you.
    Dan

  20. Dear Dan,
    Fr Jack Murphy will be selling his home and moving into the rectory of St. Michael the Archangel Church, SSPX.
    Our new church is beautiful inside,the altar is originally from an old church in the city, and was in old St. John’s. Monsignor McDonald, who built the new church in 2000, refurbished the altar, the stained glass windows, the old altar rail(which was made into confessionals), and the statues.He even added stutes of St. Gerard Majella, St Elizbeth Seton, and St. Therese of Lisieux. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel he built is reminiscent of a Medieval monastery. It is used for adoration on Thursdays, and for the tabernacle, but not for long. . .

  21. Wow, a bishop said this?!?!?! This is awesome! Deo gratias!

    It’s so great to hear good liturgical news from a bishop. God bless ‘em!
    I hope whatever Bishop Murphy has spreads to other bishops.

  22. danphunter1 says:

    Dear Letitia,
    Thank you for the update on Father and the info on St.Johns.
    Do you remember Father Andrew Klarmann? He was pastor of St Johns for a number of years.
    My mother studied Gregorian Chant with him for 3 years, right up until his death in 1986.
    He was a very holy priest who taught chant in the seminary in Brooklyn in the 1940′s.
    He also penned a number of books on Sacred chironomy and chant.
    Rev. Klarmann once told my mother that he had an extremely difficult time offering the Bugnini mass because he lost grace whilst saying it.
    Requiscat in Pace, Father Andrew Klarmann.

  23. danphunter1 says:

    Leticia,rather. Mea Culpa
    God bless,
    Dan

  24. Derik Castillo says:

    I applaud the actions of Bishop Murphy, and
    I think it is necessary to emphasize the need of
    cathequesis.

    I attend to Perpetual Adoration and it saddens
    me the way some people behave before the Real
    Presence. I imagine that if they understand the
    dignity of the Most Blessed Sacrament, then
    probably they will change for the better.

    Derik

  25. Sue Sims says:

    To be fair, I doubt that it’s all down to the priest’s neglect or even the absence of the tabernacle. Our church here on the south coast of England is traditionally ordered, and congregations are silent and prayerful before Mass. But on First Holy Communion or Confirmation days, it’s pandemonium (the word is used in full consciousness of its derivation): the church fills up with relatives and friends of the little dears – people who haven’t been in church since their own First Communions (or, if one’s lucky, their weddings) and who really don’t have a clue about the Blessed Sacrament or anything else. Our priest will come and appeal for quiet and reverence, and the congregation looks at him as though he’s crazy, and then carries on chatting, laughing and shouting messages across the aisles.

    What does one do about it? I wish I knew. If the parish priest does as the Bishop requests, and catechises the regular Mass-goers, it won’t help the nonce-attenders, who are the ones who offended the Bishop so much. As long as First Communion and Confirmation are seen as rites of passage rather than part of a Catholic life, it’s going to continue.

  26. Andrew says:

    What does one do about it?

    No one can give what he doesn’t have.

  27. JohnK says:

    Sue Sims -

    When I drive down the street there is a reminder about every 60 seconds along the side of the road what the speed limit is. Now that limit hasn’t changed much in the 40 years I’ve been driving, but every 60 seconds, there it is again. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.

    I’d like to see our priest vest at the foot of the altar some Sunday. It’s something only the altar boys ever saw when I was a kid. Then turn to the people and say simply, “This is how I prepare to celebrate in the service of the Lord. How do you do the same?” and begin the liturgy.

  28. Royce says:

    Oh, if only the Bishop of Lafayette would send such a letter to the pastor of the parish in my college town! I suppose I’ll have to keep on hoping and praying until Msgr. Higi retires. He’s too busy persecuting liturgical orthodoxy to promote reverence.

    On a similar note, for the past few weeks people have been writing into our diocesan newspaper to request more respectful silence after Mass. I think people are encouraged in all sorts of aspects by SP and the new direction of the Vatican — the magnetic influence is already happening! Unfortunately, though, a priest wrote in opposing silence and the paper’s editorial board came down against reverence too. Significantly, not a single letter from a layman has appeared supporting the noise. The paper’s justification is that we should be like the Apostles having a good time with Jesus. Like the first commenter wrote, “Blah blah early Church blah blah …”

  29. von says:

    Royce..

    I read that too.. Did you see what the excuse was.. There are NO vestibules where people can gather… lol

    Perhaps we can knock down some of these modern auditoriums and -rebuild so that we CAN have a vestibule!!

    Pax

  30. Royce says:

    Von,

    As I wrote on my blog (where I keep a more or less running critique of Today’s Catholic):

    A few points: it is summer; people can talk outside. Moreover, the chit-chatter I am accustomed to hearing after Mass is definitely not koinonia. It is social catch-up (“Julie, did you notice Susan changed her hair color again?” “No, but I did hear her daughter’s stopped seeing that Miller boy!”). Of all the chit-chat I’ve overheard over the past few years I’m fairly sure none of it was really expressing koinonia, joy of being in the real, physical presence of Our Lord (“Oh Julie, I’m just so glad I came to Mass today! What a great gift the Eucharist is for us!” – Yeah, never heard that amidst the chatter).

    My parent’s parish (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton) has a “Gathering Area.” Needless to say, I don’t go to Mass there anymore.

  31. Ann says:

    THANKS BE TO GOD! DEO GRATIAS!

  32. Joy says:

    That is just wonderful that a Bishop would actually notice the chaos and write to have it changed. I’m not sure things will change when the Tabernacle is brought back to prominence. In my parish, the chatter is quite loud both before and after Mass. The Tabernacle is in front and very obvious, always has been.
    If only it would make a difference. If only.

  33. Sharon says:

    If you would like to give Bp Murphy some feedback this is his email address
    bishopsoffice@drvc.org

  34. Tony says:

    For those who are having trouble finding the tabernacle, I bring you the Jesus Positioning System™

  35. “What does one do about it?”

    At a former parish, we had a monthly catechetical Sunday, which would bring many more people to church than usual. What we did is begin with a short meeting with some teaching and announcements, and then the whole group of parents and children were led in procession to the church from the school hall by the crucifer and altar servers. When they entered the Church, the processional hymn was begun. Anyone who wasn’t involved with the religious ed had the chance to pray in peace in church before Mass, and the procession served to quiet people down and have them come into church singing instead of chanting.

    Perhaps a similar reason that High Mass in the Middle Ages always started with a procession (at least in English parishes).

  36. Royce says:

    On a second reading I have decided that, as awesome as the content of this letter is, I think my favorite part is really His Excellency´s use of the term `comportment.`