Altar Use

I’m hoping someone can provide some concrete guidance. We have a small chapel in our home which includes an altar that we basically rescued from a convent that closed. My son is an altar boy, who like many other Catholic boys, likes to have his own “pretend” masses in our chapel. He also practices his serving there. He is very reverent and takes it very seriously. My question is, is it permissible for him to use the altar for this purpose? He doesn’t want to do anything that would be inappropriate or disrespectful considering that it is not a real Mass.

You’re such a good Mom. Big hug for you :hug3:

You might want to check with your diocese. The altar, I assume, has been consecrated, and, as such, is reserved for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. While it is certainly laudable and commendable that you rescured the altar and that your son has great reverence for the Mass, I believe that it would be best to err on the side of caution and check with the officials.

Actually, I’m the Dad!!

Since it was rescued from a convent chapel, the altar itself was probably not consecrated, but of course the Altar Stone would have been. Assuming that this was a pre-conciliar fixed altar.

Given that assumption, one question comes to mind: is the Altar Stone intact? The OP doesn’t seem to mention it. If the Stone was removed, there’s really no problem. But if it was not removed, it is a problem, and it would be, as you said, best to err on the side of caution.

Even if it were post-conciliar, there would still be concerns regarding its proper use.

Remember that the post-conciliar requirement for a Stone applies only to fixed altars, not to the “table altars” which are so commonly seen.

I would also say check with your diocese, and follow their instructions. There’s no harm in checking with them, and that way, you’ll have piece of mind that you did the right thing.

That’s what I would do.

Nonetheless, if the “table altar” was meant for sacred use, it was probably blessed and deemed so. It seems to be a gray area, but, caution should still be exercised. I don’t think I would be comfortable letting my son (if I had one) use it to pretend to celebrate Mass, especially since Mass had been celebrated atop it, even if he is reverent.

My apologies!

You’re a Number One DAD! :yeah_me:

From a practical point of view, if this altar was being discarded, one would assume that it was done with the knowledge of the diocese. Since it was destined for the city dump, one would think that it couldn’t be profaned much more than that.

In any case, let’s not have a disagreement. My main interest is to know the status of the Stone. That’s one thing that may have been overlooked in the process of discarding the altar. It’s happened before, mainly with pre-conciliar fixed altars.

I looked at the altar and I do not see an altar stone. The top of the altar is a solid surface with no apparent area where the altar stone would be.

What is the altar made of? Regardless of its composition, I would still check with the diocese.

A few further questions come to mind:

(1) Are there any markings on the top (I’m thinking here of incuse crosses)?
(2) Did you try running your fingernail across the surface? Sometimes a Stone is so well set that it’s not obvious to the naked eye.
(3) How old is the altar?
(4) When was the convent vacated?

I always figured the altar stone was under the table-top, in the body of the altar.

The altar is made of wood and was made in 1929. The back side of the altar is open. It is the type that would sit right up against the wall.

Loss of consecration

An altar loses its consecration: (1) when the table of the altar is broken into two or more large pieces; (2) when at the corner of the table that portion which the consecrator anointed with holy oil is broken off; (3) when several large stones of the support of the table are removed; (4) when one of the columns which support the table at the corners is removed; (5) if for any reason whatever the table is removed from the support, or only raised from it — e.g., to renew the cement; (6) by the removal of the relics, or by the fracture or removal, by chance or design, of the small cover, or slab, placed over the cavity containing the relics.

This is about fixed altars, but by extension the removal of the altar of the designed place results in lost of consecration. It that altar would be set back to a chapel as altar of the Holy Eucharist, it certainly would be reconsecrated.

I still believe that consultation with the diocese would be in order. Given the fact that we are dealing with an altar, it is better to err on the side of caution.

From the description, since this altar is wood and does not have a cut-out for a stone to be set-in, it was probably used with a portable Stone. (I’m presuming that there are no crosses carved on the top. Is that right?)

As I said earlier, if it was being discarded in the first place and destined for the “recycle bin” it was going to be put through a wood-chipper at best. Still, if one is concerned, it wouldn’t hurt to phone the Chancery or at least the local pastor who formerly had charge of it.

You are correct. There are no cross carvings or anything at all on the top of the altar.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit