Built of Living Stones 74-76: The Location of the Tabernacle

It’s interesting that the bishops do not reference the post-conciliar document Eucharisticum Mysterium and its suggestion for a separate chapel where a prayerful place is needed in a busy community. Despite having grown up in parishes with tabernacles on the old high altars, I find the separate chapel to be a more accommodating solution.  

§ 74 § There is a number of possible spaces suitable for eucharistic reservation. The revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that it is more appropriate that the tabernacle in which the “Blessed Sacrament is reserved not be on the altar on which Mass is celebrated.”(GIRM 315) The bishop is to determine where the tabernacle will be placed and to give further direction. The bishop may decide that the tabernacle be placed in the sanctuary apart from the altar of celebration or in a separate chapel suitable for adoration and for the private prayer of the faithful. In making his determination, the bishop will consider the importance of the assembly’s ability to focus on the eucharistic action, the piety of the people, and the custom of the area.* The location also should allow for easy access by people in wheelchairs and by those who have other disabilities.

Though they do not reference Eucharisticum Mysterium, the bishops do add this starred note, citing the adjustment in the new GIRM:

*There has been a shift in directives about the placement of the tabernacle over time. The latest edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2000) alters the earlier directive in GIRM, no. 276, which gave a clear preference for reservation in a separate chapel. GIRM, no. 315, now directs the diocesan bishop to determine the appropriate placement either in the sanctuary (including on the old altar which is no longer used for celebration) or in a separate chapel. It may not be reserved on the altar at which the Eucharist is celebrated.

§ 75 § In exercising his responsibility for the liturgical life of the diocese, the diocesan bishop may issue further directives regarding the reservation of the Eucharist. Before parishes and their liturgical consultants begin the educational component and the discussion process, it will be important for all those involved to know what specific directives or guidelines the diocesan bishop has issued. Good communication at the first stage of the process will help to avoid confusion or conflict between the parish’s expectations, the consultant’s experience, and diocesan directives.

Communication is essential, especially to steer through the expectations of the community and others involved in the discernment.

§ 76 § The pastor, the parish pastoral council, and the building committee will want to examine the principles that underlie each of the options, consider the liturgical advantages of each possibility, and reflect upon the customs and piety of the parishioners. Many diocesan worship offices assist parishes by facilitating the study and discussion process with the parish. This is also an area where liturgical consultants can be of great assistance to the parish.

Study and discussion, yes. But the effort requires prayer too.

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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