Where Should the Tabernacle Be Placed?

In some ways, the topic of this week’s Catholicism in Focus is a trivial one. It is the sort of topic that the Pharisees might have argued about, seemingly esoteric, having no effect on the lives of the poor and no relevance to a true faith.

In other ways, this topic finds itself at the very center of the most important aspect of our lives. How we answer this question is not simply a matter of preference or idiosyncrasy, but is rooted in the very theology that we bring to our Eucharistic celebrations.

Oh, and based on the comments on the video so far, it’s also a controversial question that is dictated more by emotion and nostalgia than a carefully tested Eucharistic theology…

The question that I tackle this week is of the placement of the tabernacle.

As you watch this video, I simply ask that you try to understand what the Church is saying and why it is saying it. Rather than trying to justify your own opinion or challenge what is being said, really try to get to the heart of the issue. In the interest of tradition and familiarity, many have already rejected the prescriptions of the Church, writing them off as irrelevant, out of touch, or just another mistake of the Second Vatican Council. They have looked to things they don’t like in the Church as a way to prove that this “new” practice is the cause. Even some bishops are trying to find their way around the rubrics and return to what the Church used to do. Try to fight this urge. Try to get beneath the surface, outside of your comfort zone, and see what is really at stake.

Reverence for the Eucharist is surely not what it should be. Our worship can definitely be lackluster at times. For some, this is reason enough to abandon our present practices and return to the old ones, a “magic bullet” to fix our issues. My opinion? While there are some obvious pastoral issues at play here and some clear problems that need to be addressed, the placement of the tabernacle is less of an issue than catechesis is. Putting it at one place or another might hide the issues we have, but it won’t actually address them if people don’t know what’s going on. Let’s address what’s going on under the surface, let’s correct what could be lacking in our Eucharistic theology, and none of this will be an issue.

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5 Comments on “Where Should the Tabernacle Be Placed?

  1. Great piece. At our church it is placed to the side and I have also seen it placed in a separate chapel. Either way I think it is fitting and appropriate.

  2. Brother Casey,
    I appreciate this explanation that you offer. I agree that much of this “debate” hints at the importance of revisiting our Eucharistic theology as well as renewing our catechetical work revolving around the Mass, the Holy Eucharist and even the other sacraments. This raises the question of how are our parishes addressing the need of Adult Faith Formation. Thank you and God bless! – Alvin @ catholicismfelt.com

  3. Pingback: The Simple Catholic

  4. Fourteen years ago when my parish renovated the church, our bishop requested that the tabernacle in all parishes be placed in the center of the sanctuary. We provided photographs and drawings to show that with our setup, there was no practical way to do this and still provide an appropriate setting for it. In the end, the bishop allowed us to move the tabernacle to one side of the sanctuary where there was less traffic and where it was visible throughout the entire church. Wise compromise.

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