Brick by Brick: ad orientem worship at Assumption Grotto in Detroit: table altar removed.

Here is some great news.

At the wonderful parish, Assumption Grotto, in Detroit, the free-standing altar set up in the middle of the sanctuary – in front of the beautiful main altar – has now been removed.

The blog Te Deum Laudamus covers what is going on at Assumption Grotto and there are photos.

That, friends, is what the sanctuary was designed to look like.

Compared to:

Think of all the money that was spent over the last decades to ruin churches that could have been used for other parish needs, all in the name of the Second Vatican Council which never mandated these wreckovations.

As I understand it, the removal of the ironing-board altar… sorry, perhaps that is too dismissive… picnic-table altar… was the result of a patient process.  Over the years some ad orientem Masses were reintroduced, then the high altar was used, the Extraordinary Form was brought in, and then it became obvious that the table, blocking the sanctuary, had to go.  The table altar was nice, for a table altar.  But, in front of that beautiful main altar?  I call to mind an essay in Notitiae which established that the principle of the unicity of the altar in the sanctuary was so important that where there was a fine main altar, nothing should be set up in front of it and that a desire for versus populum should be sacrificed.  An easy sacrifice, frankly.

Clearing that sanctuary is a concrete gesture for the promotion of the New Evangelization.

WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Perrone!

The parish could use your support.  There is a donation button which you can use right after you use my donation button!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. monmir says:

    Congratulations to Fr. Perrone. Next step the flags. What a beautiful sanctuary.

  2. Weetabix says:

    I pray they do this at my parish. It’s a beautiful church from 1908. The diocese had a policy under the former bishop that if you spent more than $5,000 on a project, you had to proceed with wreckovation. Fortunately, a former pastor who loved the church would spend $4,999, then the next day start a new project with the same bucket and brush. He saved a lot, but we still lost the communion rail and we have the free-standing altar in front of a beautiful high altar.

  3. Burke says:

    At least they left the main altar intact. In the parish church of my childhood the ‘wreckovation’ involved carving away the front of the old high altar to make space for the ‘ironing board.’

  4. lizaanne says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for covering this story about our wonderful parish!! It was so nice to walk up the main aisle and see clearly through the sanctuary to the altar. So grateful to Fr. Perrone for making this change – it really speaks to the priorities of the entire parish, and especially our pastor.

    God bless our priests!

  5. Michael_Thoma says:

    Is there a plan in the works for the Latin Rite to restore the practice of public morning and evening prayers?

    If so, the now “free-standing” can be pulled forward and lower, so as to not block the view of the beautiful high altar, yet still be of use for the leading bishop, priest, deacon, etc to keep candles, a cross/crucifix, books, icons, etc.

    See the set up of this Malanakara Syrian Orthodox Church (would be the same in the Malankara Syriac Catholic Church):

  6. JonPatrick says:

    This is why moving the Ordinary Form to Ad Orientem would help. For example, when we are in Maine we worship at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Lewiston which has a fairly nice altar table in front of the sanctuary and a beautiful high altar in back, which still has the tabernacle in the center. Because of this arrangement, when they say the Extraordinary form it ends up having to be in front of the altar table rather than at the high altar in back otherwise it would be difficult to see the priest. If they were to go to Ad Orientem for the Ordinary Form they could dispense with the table altogether. I’ve been to a few other churches with similar situations.

    Of course this does not help those churches where the wreckovator vandals ripped out the high altar completely which sadly happened at so many parishes.

  7. disco says:

    @Monmir nothing wrong with the US and Vatican flags in the sanctuary. They are a bit close to the high altar for my tastes but not inappropriate.

  8. jhayes says:

    Because of this arrangement, when they say the Extraordinary form it ends up having to be in front of the altar table rather than at the high altar in back otherwise it would be difficult to see the priest.

    My understanding is that here can be only one altar in a sanctuary and that once a free-standing altar has been installed, that is the altar – and must be used for all Masses, whether versus populum or ad orientem. The original altar can be retained as the tabernacle but not for celebrating Mass (unless the free-standing altar is removed). My recollection is that the instruction says it must not be decorated.

  9. Michael_Thoma says:


    This instruction must be limited to your diocese. There are thousands of Latin Churches with three, five or more altars. My Syro-Malankara Rite wedding was celebrated in a Latin Church and the front altar was used as a prayer table for the Wedding Rites, while the high altar was set up for the Holy Qurbono, on which the Liturgy was celebrated immediately following the Wedding.

    No objections by anyone.

  10. jessicahoff says:

    Good to see. Look just like my Anglo-Catholic Church now. I still think we should hand the building back (with some of us coming with them) as we never went through V2 – mind you, we had our own trendies, but not as many who were into wrecking the sanctuary. Praise the Lord to see this!

  11. Grat news! This is the direction we’re headed in! Deo gratis a. It’s not unstoppable, it’s not iron fate, but it’s arising from deep forces at work in the Church. Be encouraged. Be persistent.

    Now, be patient. Most likely this will take a LOT of time. Yes,yes, we know that’s not how the wreck ovations came, what’s your point? Cruelty justifies more cruelty? It is a fact that Mass going Catholics have been told for 40 years that versus populum is best, ad orientem was bad, and a lot of people like versus populum and are used to it. It will take time to undo that in a way that doesn’t beget new grievances to bedevil us for yet more decades.

    It will take time. Only some priests are even familiar with the issues at stake, let alone convinced about ad orientem, let alone so convinced they will make moves toward it, let alone having the time and energy and a church that more readily lends itself to exploring it. A lot of priests have lots of headaches to deal with: it’s a target-rich environment. A priest quite understandably might conclude he has six or ten needful fixes ahead of this one, which all take time, time, time.

    One of the frustrating things about God is he is a lot more patient than we are, or want him to be.

  12. (I know how to spell and punctuate, but my iPad thinks it knows better.)

  13. Padraig Smythe says:

    I attended an EF Mass at the Cathedral in Austin, TX, which has a fairly nice table-altar in front of a high altar. Before Mass, they simply move the table-altar to the far left in front of a statue of Mary. Problem solved, and allows for “concelebration.”

  14. Indulgentiam says:

    Beautiful! absolutely breathtaking! Deo gratias!

  15. HighMass says:

    How wonderful, PRAISE BE TO GOD! How we all wish this could happen in our parishes.

  16. Cantor says:

    One thing I like about the pre-removal photo: the servers seem far more age appropriate for undertaking the path to the priesthood!

  17. jflare says:

    – I first encountered the traditional Mass around 2001, about 6 years before Benedict made it “legal” and “better known”. Because of the attitude of the splinter Catholic group that offered it, I acquired a passionate loathing for even considering that form for some time. This placed me in quite a quandary: I could not deny the idea that local churches that’d been decorated for the traditional form DID offer the most beautiful altars and sanctuaries I had ever seen. I recall thinking it quite sad that the beautiful high altars at Gonzaga AND the local cathedral..never saw use beyond providing a very imposing background.
    – I have thought it somewhat awkward to watch the Novus Ordo being offered ad orientem whilst the usual main altar still stands. Our pastor makes it work well enough, but it seems somewhat goofy to offer Mass with the priests near the rear altar, but the altar boys kneeling before the main altar. No other way it CAN be done right now, really, but it still looks a bit awkward.

    – For the record, I don’t know whether it’s a matter of canon law or lesser precept, but the subject of flags–American, Vatican, or otherwise–came up in a meeting I set in a few years ago. According to our pastor, our bishops here in the US had dictated that Catholic churches here in the US should not display flags, lest we offend someone from another country. Admittedly, I find this more than a little insulting to citizens of this nation and our pastor admitted he didn’t think highly of the rule. Even so, we don’t display any flags in our church; when we start “over-ruling” our bishops..we begin walking down a VERY dangerous road.

    – I keep thinking it’d be nice to see our bishops be much more assertive with regard to challenging our clergy and seminarians to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Though this may sound ridiculously oblique, I begin to think we might be able to restore this nation to some of its former glory by being prickly enough about various particular concerns to insist on offering Mass in THIS manner, not that, and possibly causing people to be a LITTLE BIT more particular about what they require of law in general, and what they don’t.

  18. dominic1955 says:

    I think the only thing that actually absolutely *mandated* a single altar in a church was the Pseudo-synod of Pistoia…

    Most “table altars” were not designed with the TLM at all thus why they are ignored and the old high altar is used if usable.

  19. Paul Young says:

    What is the appropriate means of disposing of an old altar, if the “ironing table” one is removed?

  20. AdTrinitatemPerMariam says:

    ^My parish (Ss. Cyril and Methodius) was given Grotto’s freestanding altar. It has been installed in our side chapel, and it looks really nice. :-)

  21. jhayes says:

    Michael_ Thoma, it applies world wide. Its in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

    303. In building new churches, it is preferable for a single altar to be erected, one that in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church.

    In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is so positioned that it makes the people’s participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to artistic value, another fixed altar, skillfully made and properly dedicated, should be erected and the sacred rites celebrated on it alone. In order that the attention of the faithful not be distracted from the new altar, the old altar should not be decorated in any special way

  22. Random Friar says:

    I rather enjoyed Fr. Perrone’s explanation — very solid.

  23. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Paul Young, the altar stone and relics must first be removed. Then the altar can be used perhaps as a shrine. My parish has a shrine of Blessed Margaret of Castello and there is an altar there with a kneeler. It was originally an altar as it is wood and you can see the square cutout where the altar stone was. It is level with the surface but is clearly a cover.

  24. AvantiBev says:

    Father Z, I could be wrong but I believe that Assumption Grotto was the church where the saintly, late Father John Hardon, S.J. sought refuge during his later years. We were blessed to have him speak at St. John Cantius in Chicago several times and blessed by his mentoring of our pastor, Fr. Phillips. Perhaps Fr. Hardon is interceding for all devout priests such as you, Fr. Phillips and Fr. Perrone even now.

  25. Praying4Mercy says:

    Wow! Perhaps the hope that springs eternal might actually now produce fruit in the Church! Praise be to God! Now on to the liturgy and especially the music – again hope springing very eternal…

  26. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:


    Yes. Fr. Hardon had an office at Assumption Grotto. In fact, he had a library at Grotto – a library that was later picked up and taken to St. Louis where his cause was being worked on. I happened to be at Grotto that day and took some shots of the move.

    Many people at Grotto had him as a spiritual director. I did not get there until 2005, but so many people speak of him with great fondness and there are so many personal stories to be heard. I regret not getting there sooner.

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