Where's the Tabernacle ?

It seems there is little or no regard to the physical placement of the Tabernacle in most newly constructed Catholic Churches where I live. I cannot easily locate the Tabernacle because it is certainly not in a place immediately found when entering the seating area. Sometimes, the Tabernacle (with a RED candle) cannot be found at all. Personally, I feel this is an affront to our Lord. I realize my thoughts about this reflect my age but I hold on to the belief that the Tabernacle should be predominantly visible when walking into any Catholic Church from the “main aisle”. :shrug: :twocents:

The tabernacle doesn’t have to be in the center of the church, immediately visible upon entry. For example, in most cathedrals the tabernacle is on a side altar, to the left or right, or behind the main altar. In St Peter’s in Rome, the tabernacle is on a side altar to the left of the main altar, and is not visible until you get really close to the main altar. Some churches that are tourist attractions have the tabernacle in a chapel off to one side, where people can quietly pray without the distraction of tourists.

I know what you mean. For me, while growing up, the Tabernacle has always been behind the Altar at a level where it could be seen. A few years ago I went to a different parish and struggled to find it… it was off to the side and this disturbed me as it felt like Jesus was being sidelined, and I know that it used to be behind the Altar in that parish also. Anyway, just for the record… the most recent Priest has put it back again where it belongs, IMO :slight_smile: Personally I think the Tabernacle should always be in a prominent position.

Your opinion, that a tabernacle which is not visible is an insult to Jesus, is not universal.

Cistercian monasteries often have the tabernacle behind a curtain. Late medieval Churches typically used a rood screen to hid the entire altar area. I believe many Eastern Catholic Churches still use rood screens.


Another reason why I attend the EF Mass. :yup:

There is a reason why the Tabernacle is supposed to be prominent; when you come to Church, Christ is the most important “thing” (person) there. Yes He is also present in other ways - in the Word, present in the person of the priest, present in the community gathered in his Name, and in other manners. But He is most fully present in the Blessed Sacrament, not just during Mass, in fact that is the main purpose why the building is constructed at all.
So it is fitting the Blessed Sacrament should be convenient to find. Is there a reason for making the most important thing inconvenient for God’s people to find?

It isn’t helpful to cite examples like St. Peter’s, etc, which are not anyone’s parish, and have special circumstances totally different from 99.9% of churches. In your parish church, the Blessed Sacrament should be prominent, in the same view as a realistic crucifix and the altar. Those things are all related to one another, and to the lives of the people in church, both during Mass and at other times when people are there. In one nearby church, they turned the pews in the front half around to face the middle, where they have the altar. The crucifix is over on the left side, the Blessed Sacrament is in its original location but with half the people turning their backs to it (Him). This arrangement exalts the priest, and anyone else in the middle. What does it say about the importance of Christ?

Having an Adoration Chapel is wonderful. But maintaining an Adoration Ministry depends on having lots of people who grew up in parishes where the Blessed Sacrament was universally important, not limited to a small room in another area, like an optional elective (for whoever is “into” that sort of thing). A better solution would be to have a small Adoration Chapel in one place, but still maintaining the Blessed Sacrament in a prominent place in the Church.

Our Tabernacle is behind the altar, with a gate in front of it that they open during communion. We also have an adoration chapel that has a monstrance facing everyone. I feel comfort inside of me when I see this… just knowing that I am entering the church and facing the blessed sacrament, but can also take part in it outside of Mass when the church is closed in our adoration chapel.

The OP’s assertion that it is an insult to Jesus when the tabernacle is hard to find simply isn’t correct.


I’m curious how you would justify the Church’s use of rood screens.


Same with the. Benedictines, where the tabernacle is often in a side chapel. And I’d point out to Louis that it is not mandatory that the candle be red.

Over the centuries the Church has used different kinds of art to emphasize the importance of 2 things: the Blessed Sacrament itself, and/or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Rood Screens, an (identifiable) curtain over the Tabernacle, and several other things have been used in different times and places, including altar rails, or the red light. I would include those and others together in one list, things that tried to focus our hearts on the Blessed Sacrament. Monasteries address this need in unfamiliar ways, but they address it. Over time, some things were replaced by other art forms, all to this function.

In another list, I would put those things that deemphasize the Blessed Sacrament. This includes removing the Blessed Sacrament from the Church; leaving it in the Church, but putting it in a place that is hard to find, or in a separate vista far from the altar, and with no crucifix visible. On the “bad” list I include where the visible choir or the priest or “Peace and Justice” banners are far more prominent than the Blessed Sacrament. Some churches give the impression, “well, we have to put the Blessed Sacrament somewhere, but it - yes* it *- is ours, so we can move it wherever we want, depending on our design that year. Next year we may put it somewhere else, if we need that corner for the ministry sign up sheets.”

The older church model was consistent with the idea that Christ is permanent, and we adjust our purposes to fit Him, regardless of which parish you are in, or what year it is. The new model reinforces that Christ can be moved to fit our purposes this year in St. John parish. Christ can be found at a different location in St. Joseph church building, if they choose a different agenda. Or different beliefs.

Don’t mean to sound rood, but this seems a bit off the topic - a problem that a person may have no idea what part of the building the Blessed Sacrament is. I believe some rood screens were like a framework, with removable panels so that different areas were visible, or emphasized, other areas or activities not, at different times.

My understanding is that rood screens varied a great deal. If a given rood screen for whatever reason was more of a distraction than a way to focus the hearts of the people, then it was not good. If it did focus the hearts of the people on Christ - not just Christ in an abstract sense but present in a very specific place, then it was good. Anyway it is a moot point since they mostly disappeared after Trent. They served a purpose in their time, successfully or not, but were deemed no longer useful in the 16th century.

What most people seem to not know was that for a number of centuries, there was no such thing as a tabernacle; there is reference to a Pastophorion or a Thalamus, which appears to predate any tabernacle, after 400+ AD.

And then there was no tabernacle on the main altar. that took some centuries more. In Europe, the great cathedrals were often designed so that the tabernacle was off in its own space, as noted above, on a side altar or in a chapel or screened off area.

Part of the move (contrary to popular current opinion) was not a matter of denigrating the Blessed Sacrament. It was a matter of focus. At Mass, we start with no Eucharist, and do not have th Eucharist present on the altar until the Consecration. Many liturgists felt that having the Blessed Sacrament present prior to and during the Consecration took away from the importance of the Consecration. What they proposed was a single focus - fiorst on the Liturgy of the Word, and then on the Liturgy of the Eucharist; what they did not want was a dual focus, sort of on the the Liturgy of the Word, and sort of on the tabernacle, and then again, sort of on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and sort of on the tabernacle.

And they went back to earlier positioning of the tabernacle, away from the main altar.

The emphasis that people put on having the tabernacle on the main altar emphasizes that dual focus rather than the single focus. The risk to some extent is perceived as seeing the Mass as going through an act to make more Hosts along with a nodding acquaintance with the sacrificial aspects as well as the sacred meal aspects. The whole issue tends to devolve to strong emotions, but not necessarily strong liturgical issues.

I appreciate your well thought out and lucid responses to both my posts, and that you took the time to reply to my question, and your humor. :wink:

It means a lot to me.


In St. Patrick’s Cathedral (N.Y.C.) the tabernacle is in the very back in the “Lady Chapel” behind the main altar, and it is definitely beautiful and a great place to hold the Blessed Sacrament. I believe the OP is concerned with the placement of the tabernacle in churches that are not large as cathedrals and the tabernacle is placed on the side. It’s very unfortunate because personally, the tabernacle/Blessed Sacrament should symbolically and in truth be the center of a church and of our lives. It sets a big expectation for one going into a church to find the presence of Christ clearly visible and ready to hear your every word. :wink: I say this because my parish has the tabernacle on the side, and I’ve seen in other places, like Holy Innocents in the Garment District (N.Y.C. as well) has the tabernacle in the center reminding me of how sacred the place I am entering is. When it’s on the side, for a Catholic visiting another parish, it would sometimes be hard to know where the tabernacle is located if on the side or in a separate room upon entering.

In my area there is an informal movement to focus attention, not on the Word or the Eucharist, but on the congregation, certain lay ministers, the visible music group. Pews were turned sideways so you **will **look at other laity. It’s almost implied that it is the congregation, coming together, that makes Christ present, and that the “other” consecration - what the priest does - is a formality. They are not - yet - at the point of throwing unused consecrated hosts out when the congregation leaves. But that may come, just as it did in some Protestant churches, since the Eucharist is regarded as a means to an end (building unity) - almost like an “icebreaker” - rather than a Person. In the future, maybe they’ll find a better icebreaker.

Non sacramental Christians regard Christ as equally present everywhere. There is no real “front” or “direction” in a Baptist church, other than wherever the microphone is, and where the people are sitting. Sacramental Christians do value having a “front”, or direction, of the Real Presence outside Mass. In the time before and after Mass, or anytime other than Mass, prayer often takes place, at least in parishes that encourage it. Children who grow up in Catholic parishes that are “non-directional” (where does St. X keep their Blessed Sacrament?) or that seem to worship the congregation equally with Christ are likely to either join non-sacramental churches or no church later on.

Our parish church has been remodled and expanded recently. The congregation sits in the expanded section. The tabernacle is placed in the original alter. This is partitioned off from view. The choir is in front of the partition. Only in the very front rows can the entrance be seen.

Setting aside the part about throwing the Eucharist away and ignoring non-Catholic Churches for a moment, what you are describing is a very monastic spirituality, that of an enclosed community of brothers who gather to celebrate the sacraments as family.

Monastic spirituality tends to balance Christ the divine king with Christ the man who comes to meet his brothers and offer them joy and salvation. My first encounter with monks at the monastery was a bit shocking in this regard. They seemed almost liberal, which contrasted what I had heard about such things as austere lifestyles, fasting, etc. Over time however, I have come to appreciate this balance.

“Church in the round” is widely misunderstood in this regard, as if it somehow ignores Jesus. Correctly understood however, it is a recovery of the Church’s monastic roots. Our last Pope was named Benedict after all, and I don’t think anyone would accuse monks of putting the focus on themselves because they face each other in choir.


I think that Timothy H answers your commentary fairly well, but I am going to come at it from a different direction.

Everyone is entitled to have opinions, whether or not they are based on evidence, or not, or emphasize one part of the evidence over another.

Let me give you a bit of evidence.

My parish has for something like 25 or 30 years had a church in the half-round.

It also put the tabernacle in the chapel (which seats something like 35 to 45). As one enters from the main entrance, it is off to the left, so it is opposite those who sit on the right, and behind those who sit on the left; there are 6’ tall windows into the chapel room, but they are screened.

Pretty horrible, right? Emphasis on the choir (there is no loft, so they are off to the far right side, near the altar), and on the two readers, and the EMHC’s - right? Implies that the congregation is “making Christ present”, right?


We just happen to be a parish that has had Eucharistic Adoration.

Not 40 hours once a month.

Not 1 day a week for 8 hours.

We have Eucharistic Adoration 7 days a week, 363 days a year. And we have been doing that for well over 15 years - I think we now have had it for 20 years.

Your insistence that the tabernacle needs to be in the center of the church, behind the altar, is simply your opinion. The fact is that placing it elsewhere, can be an extremely positive thing - instead of having adoration is some vast, empty space at 3 in the morning, we have it is a small chapel, which provides a much more intimate setting for our time spent with Christ.

Yes, I am well aware that not all parishes have Adoration, but gradually it has been spreading.

When I do adoration, I go to the Chapel. And when I go to Mass on Sunday, I go to the main body of the church, along with my fellow parishioners, and together we join with the priest in the Mass. He confects the Eucharist - we don’t. And we don’t’ need the tabernacle sitting behind him to remind us of that; nor do we all need to face one direction.

That may not be to your liking, and I can understand that. But I think you have the cart and the horse mixed up; it is my opinion that moving the tabernacle was not the source of people having little or no clue about the Eucharist; it was the reverse. I have been around long enough to have experienced how badly catechesis fell apart in the early 70’s; it is only within the last 15 to 20 years that has started to be corrected. As more than one pries has said, we have lost two generations. It will be a slow climb back. Describing effects as causative is not going to speed that up.

Oh, and another bit of evidence: our parish has been growing, and a few years ago, we started (built) the first Catholic grade school in 40 years - which is now thriving.

Not too bad for a parish that puts the tabernacle where most could not see it.

I see your point, ok.

  1. You can have a parish that is strong because it has many other elements that are strong, even if the Blessed Sacrament is not prominent. No parish is strengthened by making It not prominent. You rightly point out there are other variables, like catechesis. If you look me up, you’ll see I rant and rave about catechetics on other threads, maybe half the time sensible rants.
  2. My former parish removed the Blessed Sacrament to be only in the Adoration Chapel, which was already in place. Over the years only older people went to the Adoration Chapel. In other words, only those who had grown up in churches that had the Blessed Sacrament AND crucifix prominent. “Adoration” became an optional elective, like the charismatic prayer group, not a universal thing, like prayer before the Blessed Sacrament briefly before and after Mass used to be for most Catholics. That parish could no longer find people to replace Adorers that died. People growing up in that parish likely will admire those who go to Adoration, but would be very unlikely to do so themselves.
  3. Your parish sounds interesting. In my former parish the Adoration chapel was removed to a corner of the building nowhere near the “church”. It sounds like your church has its (enormous!) adoration chapel adjacent to the church, and highly prominent. So I see your point, but I am not sure it refutes mine. And most people would consider a chapel that big to be a smaller church.
  4. Congratulations on what seems like a super parish. My former parish closed. My current parish always had the Blessed Sacrament prominent, but the new pastor restored the crucifix, also important. We reopened the closed elementary school building, now as a high school, this Fall.
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