Water fountian in front of Altar


I need some advice, I am a student at the Church Ministry Institution in the Archdiocese of Phila. anyhow one of our classes was on liturgical abuses and I think I saw a blatant one at my church. In front of the altar were lilies and in front of the was a pedestal with an electric fountian on it, guess what I could not see the altar it was completly blocked and not only that they had flowers above the tabernacle that were so high it blocked the crucified feet of Our Lord. I did not go to the upper church on Easter and the week after I went to another to celebrate Divine Mercy so this was the first Sunday that I noticed it. I was thinking about writing a letter to the pastor and the person about this any suggestions.

Thank you
Kathy Kientzy

it sounds like the flowers and decorations were in front of the altar, not on it, so what is the problem? If by fountain you mean the baptismal font for the Easter vigil, it should be in the sanctuary if possible, if it is an older church and there is no room for baptisms in the narthex. also the preparations for the Easter vigil may necessitate some disarrangements if the church is small, so chill out, the rites and the Mass are what is most important, not your view of the proceedings.

Because our Church is being built by people with no Liturgical background they do not understand that the Baptismal fount should be in the “court of the Gentiles”.

According to my teaching nothing should be in front of the altar let alone on top of it. It could not be seen and from what I understand it should be. And it wasn’t a baptismal font it was one of those little ones you buy in the store and plug in.

Thank you

There’s no requirement that the front of the altar be visible - a traditional set-up would actually have some sort of antependium “covering” one’s view of the altar anyway. A fountain might be tacky, but it’s not wrong just because you can’t see the legs of the altar or something like that.

I would like to see the source for “nothing in front of the altar”. I am sure if you look hard enough you can find genuine litugical abuses that need to be addressed, so that you do not need to spoil your experience of Mass by focussing on non-essentials.

I see no problem with this either. It is Easter and the ‘fountain’ I am certain was the water blessed and used for Baptisms at the Easter Vigil. I can’t imagine how this is an abuse.:confused:

Our Parish has a regular Baptismal font and a special electric waterfall type of font that is used at Easter only. Rest assured, it will be tucked away after Easter (sadly) draws to a close.

Hello all,

I sent an email to Father EDIT and as soon as he gets back to me I will be able to let you know where it states that nothing is to be in front of the altar. I am not surprised because until Father actually taught us this I had no idea…This is a problem in the United States we have many liturgical abuses going on and most of us are unsuspecting.

God Bless

I believe the OP is correct that the altar should be visible to all, to the extent possible. I don’t think it matters that the front of the altar is out of view, so long as the congregation can observe what’s going on during the Eucharistic Liturgy. I also don’t think there’s any rule about keeping every part of the crucifix free of obstruction, or keeping water fountains away from the altar, although both are excellent ideas.

If I recall, the rule on keeping the altar visible to the congregation is in guidelines on architecture and design of churches, so it’s not quite at the level of canon law or even the GIRM, but should still be followed. I’ll try to dig it up tonight if nobody chimes in before then.

From the GIRM:

  1. The sanctuary is the place where the altar stands, where the word of God is proclaimed, and where the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers exercise their offices. It should suitably be marked off from the body of the church either by its being somewhat elevated or by a particular structure and ornamentation. It should, however, be large enough to allow the Eucharist to be celebrated properly and easily seen.

  2. Moderation should be observed in the decoration of the altar.

During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this season, without expressing prematurely the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts are exceptions.

Floral decorations should always be done with moderation and placed around the altar rather than on its mensa.

I heard a story about a parish which installed a baptismal font in the front of the church. It contained a fountain so that the water ran continually. After it was installed, they noticed that some of the elderly ladies were leaving to go to the restroom who have never had to leave during Mass before. The constant sound of running water had an effect on them! I don’t know if this story was true or not, but does remind us of a possible, unforseen consequence of this kind of thing. If the font were in the back, where it belongs, it would not cause any distraction during Mass.

kell0’s source trumps mine, but they are very much in agreement here:

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the altar must be visible from all parts of the church but not so elevated that it causes visual or symbolic division from the liturgical assembly.
[from Section 59 of "[URL=“http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/livingstones.shtml”]Built of Living Stones


Here’s a previous related thread:
Must the altar be elevated?

I would be interested to see actual citations from architectural regulations, but I think the proper rule of thumb aims to have the action at the altar visible at all times, without caring too much about what specific parts of the physical altar are visible. So, for instance, it doesn’t matter a whit if the front of the altar is covered by some sort of decoration so long as everything from mensa level and above is visible. Or, more clearly, in an example from actual recommended practice, a large cross placed on the mensa may obscure the celebrant’s face from certain angles or obscure the elements sitting on the altar, but it is perfectly legit.

There is quite a bit of information contained in the GIRM here on arrangements and furnishings within a Church.

While the cites we’ve provided so far don’t necessarily support your interpretation, I absolutely agree it is the correct understanding.

Another thing puzzleannie, I don’t think that I am focusing on non-essentials especially when I am taking classes on improving the Church in the United States, like I said earlier I wouldn’t have really known about the abuse had I not been taught it. My problem is this if this is clearly wrong than it is not a non essential and needs to be addressed. This altar as far as I am concerned didn’t look holy, the flowers towered over the altar and it was not visible unless you were in the front pews. And as far as I know baptismal fonts use to be in the foyer’s heck I remember when my olderst was baptized it was in a room between the rectory and the church. It’s when we ignore the little things that they grow up to be big things and get harder to fix.

God Bless

Liturgical Abuse Battles Guideline #1:


While it is commendable that you are learning the rubrics of the liturgy, be very careful that your zealousness doesn’t cloud good judgment.

Like other posters have stated, there are quite a few problems with this issue, but what you have stated here, in my opinion isn’t a grave abuse, done intentionally to harm.

Someone may have just gotten a little crazy about the sanctuary for the Easter Season. Believe me, that’s a minor problem when it comes to dealing with liturgical abuses.

I’d very nicely comment to the pastor exactly what you saw, how it was a hard to see the altar and maybe someone went a little overboard on the flowers. There probably was no malice intended.

Save your energy for the big things. Yes, the little things are important and shouldn’t be ignored, but if you go for your pastor’s jugular vein over something like this, he’s not likely to be very receptive if you try to point out something that IS gravely abusive.

Pick your battles carefully and you won’t be perceived as someone who cries over each and every little thing - you’ll gain alot more respect from your pastor that way. Always be charitable.

Also, make sure to double or triple check your sources before you go to war - a little information can be just as dangerous as none.

Pretty much why I came here, and while I am not thinking about going after anyones juglar, I just thought at what point do you say something. I actually know the person who is in charge and think that she isn’t malice, but does that make it okay not to say something. Here is the problem I am learning these things and if I am to take them seriously than it does have an affect on me. So please know that I am not a warrior just a learning member who is getting a confused constantly because we live in a world that seems all to relative. Thank you for your input.

God Bless,

I was at several different churches this easter season and all of them were decorated with flowers among other things pertaining to the season. I can’t imagine they were all wrong.

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