Sunday, August 16, 2009

Project: Discussions and Questions for the Diocesan Lay Leadership

Perhaps it is time to start a separate article about the project that several of you have requested about contacting the lay leadership of the Diocese of Richmond to ask questions that are a concern for some of you.

This idea of a dialogue with the diocesan lay leadership was originally expressed by an anonymous poster. Mark then put the idea into perspective and added some questions of his own. Others have begun to add their remarks...

Please continue the conversation under this heading. If it suits those interested, I will again email Ms Combier-Donovan to ask her to read your remarks and encourage her to be part of this dialogue.

Let me know your wishes...


Katie Beaumont said...

I have so many questions and concerns that I don’t know where to begin and I realize I cannot monopolize the questions by asking all of them. So I hope we can present at least one question or so per week for dialog and better understanding within our faith-community. I commend Standingmarianna for serving the lay-followers of this diocese by using this blog to promote inter-ecclesial community ecumenism (if there is such a term) and dialog. Anyway, my main question with respect to the tabernacle is: Will the diocese of Richmond ever re-exam its attitude towards and implementation of guidelines regarding the location of the tabernacle. As a lay-follower, I find it offensive that a parish can move a tabernacle to a less visible location without providing an explanation to the laity. I realize many Catholics may be indifferent to this issue; however, for the few who desire private prayer before Sunday Mass in the presence of Our Lord housed in the tabernacle, it is unacceptable to expect them to be separated from the community as it gathers for Sunday Mass just because of a seemingly stubborn ideology or strict interpretation of guidelines that require the tabernacle to be in a separate chapel or out of sight. How does moving the tabernacle to an out-of-the-way location enhance the spirituality and devotion of the faith-community?

Mark said...


You make a very important point - the location of the Tabernacle is not just an aesthetic or nostalgia issue. It affects the relationship of those desiring to offer a "private prayer before Sunday Mass in the presence of Our Lord housed in the tabernacle" with the rest of the community.

If you allow me to rehash and meander a bit on this subject, to see where it may lead:

There are those who desire to offer private prayers and intentions before the Mass, and our Lord in the Tabernacle is the most natural recipient and focus of these prayers. At the same time, while offering such prayers, it is perfectly normal and human to desire to be included with the rest of the gathering community;

If the Tabernacle is removed from the sanctuary, a perception may be created that private devotions should also be removed from the sanctuary, while the rest of the community gathers for the Mass. Or, to put it more simply, private devotions are no longer appropriate in a communal space;

Those who persist in offering such private prayers are then effectively removed, with the Tabernacle, from the worship space, and are directed to a "less visible" location. A certain part of the gathering community is now made "less visible";

Based on this, my question to the diocesan lay leaders would be:

"How do you address the perception that one of the reasons for the removal of the Tabernacle from the sanctuary is to stop private devotions? Or to rephrase the question, should communal prayers supplant private prayers?"

standing maryanna said...

There is something else to consider. But first let me say, that I prefer the tabernacle in the sanctuary and not in a separate room; and in my own parish, it is in the sanctuary.

But I have attended Mass on rare occasions, at another parish where the tabernacle is apparently in a separate room or chapel.

The "worship space" itself is arranged in a circle where stadium seating is tiered around the altar area. I think there is a large cross hanging from the ceiling but there is little to indicate a sanctuary atmosphere. In other words, one can hardly pray before Mass because one is saying hello to others in the congregation. Nothing spiritual happens until Mass begins.

This type of circular architecture leaves no room for a tabernacle or a prayerful atmosphere. I think that is why the separate room has been set aside for the tabernacle. What think you?

Anonymous said...

Respecting circular sanctuaries, how could a Tabernacle be placed in a visible location without abstructing the view of the choir or people on the other side of the circle? This could be problematic for those Catholics who may not want to pray in the presence of a tabernacle or it could even make non-Catholic visitors uncomfortable.

Mark said...

I agree that circular sanctuary arrangements make the placement of the Tabernacle in that space difficult. But why even design such churches in the first place, unless one wanted to achieve certain predetermined outcomes? In this case, architecture itself achieves the removal of the Tabernacle and private prayers from the sanctuary, without any involvement of lay leadership.

Same can be said of those churches in our diocese that have sloping floors - in those places, kneeling has been made physically impossible.

A question here may be:

"A perception exists that the physical layout of the sanctuary space is sometimes manipulated, to make the placement of the Tabernacle difficult, and also to discourage private prayers and kneeling. How would you address this concern?"

standing maryanna said...

It appears that it is time that I email Ms Combier-Donovan and invite her to open a dialogue with members of the blog concerning the questions that have been posed.

I will do everything I can to encourage her to again visit the blog and read the comments from the two recent articles.

There is no guarantee that she will have the time or the inclination to keep responding to questions. We should not read anything negative into it, if she should decline to be part of a dialogue. It will be extra work for her.

On the other hand, responding here or through the CV, would be a service to the people of the diocese.

We'll see what happens.

standing maryanna said...

I have just received a response from Ms Combier-Donovan to my email about opening a dialogue on the blog.

It was a very favorable email and I will begin a new article with my email and her response.

I am really pleased that this blog could become a conduit for a dialogue toward understanding among The People of God, whether in the pews or on the diocesan level.

I also want to thank all of you for keeping the conversation on such a high level.

Please encourage others to read the blog so that we can have a good representation from all parts of the diocese and from a full spectrum of Catholics.

Mark said...

I would like to ask a question as well:

Catechesis in our Diocese, for the most part, uses products of two publishing corporations: RCL Benziger (a member of the CFM Publishing Group), and William H. Sadlier, Inc., its Religion branch. In the past, the Baltimore Catechism was used throughout the United States to teach the Faith to the Catholic youth.

However, even a cursory review of the currently used catechetical products shows that they differ markedly in emphasis, style, and even in content, from the Baltimore Catechism.

In view of this, my question is:

Why was the use of the Baltimore Catechism discontinued in our Diocese, and replaced by a relationship with these two companies?

Patrick Bruckart said...

I believe that with advanced planning, or a willingness to adapt an existing sanctuary, a 'church in round' or 'semi-round' could keep the tabernacle in the sanctuary. On the other hand, I do not know what the Church teaching is on placement of the tabernacle (and I would be inclined to follow it).

What would help me engage in private prayer more easily before Mass would be-in a word-silence.

My question would be, "What is the Church teaching on the proper attitude (how to conduct oneself) while in the sanctuary before Mass."


I don't need to ask any questions because I accept the Second Vatican Council. I'll save the office of worship the trouble of answering these questions that I find to be completely irrelevant. I've been involved in liturgy and faith formation for more than thirty years, so I think I know what I'm talking about. The tabernacle has no place in Catholic worship. We moved them because there was a time when people didn't actively participate in Eucharistic celebrations. As our Catholic theology shifted over the years, we began to see that we, the community, are Christ to one another when we actively participate in the liturgy. We become Eucharist to one another during Mass; thus, the tabernacle competes with these truthes. It's the same people who cling to theatrical piety that want to see tabernacles and other nostalgic images of the past. It's time we learn to celebrate as a community and change me-time to we-time.

Mark said...

Dear "We Celebrate! We Believe!":

Nice to hear from you - as always, you bring uninhibited and spirited comments to our discussions.

Surely you can think of a question, or at least a comment, for our lay diocesan leaders?