ASK FATHER: Proper location on altar for stuffed koala

KOALAFrom a reader…


Our local Extraordinary Form group was preparing for Mass and we found left on the altar a stuffed koala bear apparently from an earlier Novus Ordo Mass.  One of the members wondered aloud if a stuffed koala should be situated on the Epistle or Gospel side of the altar.

We immediately knew who to ask such questions of liturgical import.

Clearly, the koala should be on the liturgical south (Epistle) side. He’s native to Australia.

Also, the south side is where the priest prays the Lavabo inter innocentes, and what’s more innocent than the cuddly (but poisonous) koala.

Or… is that the cuddly but poisonous platypus?

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  1. I assume the koala should wear the superpelliceum then.

  2. Hank Igitur says:

    Koalas are not venomous (cf. platypus) but they do carry a strain of chlamydia. The koala is a marsupial and is incorrectly referred to as a bear. Koalas (dead, alive, stuffed or otherwise) have no known liturgical role in the Catholic church, no mention in the rubrics or in Fortescue and were never mentioned by the Australian Church fathers. Further, they did not have religious significance to the Australian aborigines but were a prized food source. Male koalas are territorial and fight each other over females mates. “Koala” means ” no drink”, their only source of moisture is eucalyptus leaves. Koalas smell bad and are not soft and cuddly. They are nocturnal. Perhaps this koala was looking on the altar for a beach ball to play with.

  3. Phil_NL says:

    Well, yes, Reverend Father, but isn’t it also true that on Saint Laurentius (Lawrence) day, the stuffed koala is to be burned, one side after the other (never rotating! One side should be done before the other) and then deposited wholesale into the sacrarium?

  4. pelerin says:

    Of course Fr Z is correct as the Gospel side would be reserved for the kangaroo.

  5. Peter in Canberra says:

    The koala is not poisonous. They are normally slow moving. They do have big claws and I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a scratch
    The male platypus has spines in his back legs that can deliver some venom. They are very shy creatures so getting spurred would require you to go out of your way …

  6. polycarped says:

    Oh come on, can we give the poor bear a break? He deserves the benefit of the doubt. He clearly thought it was a Euchalyptic celebration…

  7. SPWang says:

    It’d go along side the beach-ball, yeah?

  8. scribbly says:

    Just koala, not koala bear :)

  9. Art says:

    As a side note, here is a video promoting Australia’s many attractions should you decide to visit – koala included:

  10. Peter in Canberra says:

    O Polycarped, splendid !

  11. benedetta says:

    In all likelihood this koala encountered on the altar between the two Masses was serving as a transitional object in order to foster a continuity between those being weaned from the milk of the Novus Ordo to the meat of the Extraordinary Form…

  12. Latin Mass Type says:

    This was not made clear. I see three options for this object…

    1. Was it “stuffed” as in having once been alive and undergone the services of a taxidermist?

    2. Was it “stuffed” as in an object made to look like a koala, fashioned of synthetic material filled with more synthetic material (or possibly natural material, but that’s doubtful)?

    3. Was it “stuffed” as in the vernacular of its native land and in reality a live koala that had imbibed a bit too much?

    Still, it’s placement would probably be the same in whatever case, wouldn’t it?

  13. John Grammaticus says:

    I say that we put the koala to the Question…. to see if we can uncover the identity of the person(s) who put him there in the first place

  14. Nathan says:

    I think it would depend on whether it was a liturgical or a processional koala. The liturgical koala (from the Latin colare, to purify) would likely be prepared by the subdeacon and presented by the deacon to the celebrant immediately before the Lavabo. The processional koala (from the Latin cola, strainer) would accompany the apergilium during the Asperges.

    Neither Fortescue nor the Caeremoniale Romanum, unfortunately, foresee its use during the Absolutions following a Requiem.

    In Christ,

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I suspect it was left by a child. So the question is whether it’s more like an oblation or an oblate.

  16. Ben Yanke says:

    Latin Mass Type,

    The third option, obviously.

  17. Uxixu says:

    The Sacred Congregation already ruled that lacking explicit abrogation that altar decorations were subject to the discretion of the Ordinary. Fortescue said such was not at Rome, though the advent of stuffed marsupials as a relatively modern innovation would preclude claims of immemorial custom and indult of the Australian Bishops Conference would seem in order.

    Or something. jk.

  18. Mike says:

    The (obvious) third-class relic of an Australian saint should be returned decorously to a place of suitable repose. A collection should be taken up forthwith for a suitable reliquary.

  19. Gaz says:

    The Latin for koala is Phascolarctos cinereus. Obviously, the cinereus refers to its ashen colour. So, to establish the proper location, we need to look at a range of liturgical sources. In the Ordinary form, the koalas are blessed at a table in front of the altar before being placed on the foreheads of the faithful. This is also true of the Extraordinary form when it is celebrated in its present form. Not so long ago, the Extraordinary form saw the koalas being blessed on the Epistle side of the altar (note that it the Ordinary was celebrating the Mass of Ash Wednesday, the subdeacon of the Mass “goes to the altar, and with the prescribed reverences takes the vessel of koalas, carries it with both hands to the throne, where he kneels at the right of the bishop” to enable the bishop to bless the koalas at the throne). The koalas are never placed on the Gospel side of the altar in the roman rite.

  20. Gaz says:

    There is a dispensation for a special formulary for the imposition of koalas on the foreheads of unwelcome itinerant Australians: “Remember Mate, you’re from a dustbowl, and to that dustbowl you shall return”.

  21. gretta says:

    Polycarped, that was just brilliant!!!

  22. Flavius Hesychius says:

    In the Byzantine Rite, the koala is to remain in the narthex until the Little Entrance, whereupon he shall be placed on the Prothesis; he shall remain there until the Great Entrance, where he is then processed around the church, and then placed before the icon of the Theotokos. The faithful, having received the Eucharist, will then receive the Eucalyptus.

    Palm Sunday (being in Lent) is even more elaborate, with several prostrations being performed after a procession around the outside of the church.

    Some within the Church have felt the need to change the koala to a blow-up koala, rather than use the stuffed one, even though the Canons of the First Council of Sydney clearly condemned any koala not soft. Indeed, the Creed clearly says ‘He who him soft and cuddly’, not ‘He who made him of helium’. But such is the heresy of the day, I suppose.

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