Ask a Franciscan

Where Should the Tabernacle Go?

Q: Most members of our large Catholic community have been trying to rescue Our Lord from a tabernacle on a side altar. Some churches have kept the tabernacle where it belongs: in the center of the main altar.

Bishops, priests, and the Vatican seem to make all the decisions about how we worship. I’ve been a Catholic for 70 years and may soon prefer to watch a Mass on TV and receive holy Communion from a eucharistic minister. Reverence seems to be disappearing.

A: According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the tabernacle should be in a part of the church “that is truly prominent, distinguished, readily visible, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer” (314).

GIRM continues: “It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated. Consequently, it is preferable that the tabernacle be located, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop: a) either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration, in a form and place more appropriate, not excluding on an old altar no longer used for celebration; b) or likewise, in some chapel suitable for private adoration and prayer of the faithful, which should be organically connected to the church and readily visible to the Christian faithful” (315).

If you could attend in person, would watching Mass on TV really show greater reverence?


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