Recently stories about the initiatives in the Diocese of Madison by The Extraordinary Ordinary Bishop Robert C. Morlino to get tabernacles back into the center of churches have aroused some interest where tabernacles belong. I’ve gotten some email from people who write about their own local circumstances. Here is something interesting.
From a reader…
Pope St. John Paul II raised my parish to a Basilica. The original altar is in place, but the built-in, original tabernacle is hidden behind a triptych. Also, the presider’s chair sits directly in front of it.
The “active” tabernacle is in a chapel of reservation.
I’ve been told that the tabernacle has to be in a chapel of reservation because of the Basilica status – bringing in tourists and all. Then the inevitable, where would Father sit?
I’ve looked online, but cannot find the answer: Is it a requirement of Basilicas that the tabernacle be in a chapel of reservation?
Since the middle of the 20th century, many churches around the world have been granted the formerly-rare dignity of being named minor basilicas. There are currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 1700 minor basilicas in the world. In these United States there were 3 basilicas named before 1940. Currently, there are 82.
In 1989, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which has competence over basilicas, issued new norms for basilicas in document called Domus Ecclesiae. This document lists what requirements must be in place for a church to be considered for being granted the title of basilica.
Nothing in the decree determines the placement of the tabernacle. Clearly, if there is high traffic from tourists and gawkers, having the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a quiet chapel can be advantageous. I can’t think of too many churches, outside of some of the major cities in Europe, that have this problem, perhaps St. Patrick’s in New York City, perhaps the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Unless there is a worthy, dignified, and prominent place for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, then the front-and-center placement of the tabernacle which has been the long-standing tradition of the Church should be maintained. No?
Mind you, in the older Roman basilicas the Blessed Sacrament is often reserved apart from the sanctuary or body of the church, especially when bishops pontificate. It is brought to the altar in a procession with an ombrellino. However, for our purposes we are not dealing with a Roman basilica.
Concerning Father being seated where God should be… according to that church’s architecture….
While there are some exceptions, such as for Popes and bishops in their dioceses for certain rites, it irks me to see some priest choose for himself the dead center, raised up on a dais, in a chair that Julius Caesar wouldn’t have dreamed of using.
Plenus sui comes to mind.
Priests have a hard enough time not being full of themselves when “presiding”, especially in the Novus Ordo and most especially when Mass is versus populum. C’mon Fathers! Get over yourselves! Learn something from our tradition and the wisdom of our priestly forebears! Go back to the use of a sedilia, on the side of the sanctuary facing inward, towards liturgical North, not facing directly out at the people as if you were the 5th apparition of Vishnu for them to gaze at in wonder.
If you don’t have a proper sedilia, a dignified chair with two other stools (for your deacon and subdeacon) are more than adequate. The old ways help to keep us under control! We are even supposed to keep our eyes downcast, so as not to attract too much personal attention and so as not to be too distracted.