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Bishop Murphy: No One Knows Where the Blessed Sacrament Is!

As I reported last week, my Pastor informed us that at the request of Bishop Murphy (Diocese of Rockville Centre) that the church would be moving the tabernacle back to the center of the church. I wasn't sure at the time if this was a general request or something limited to my parish. If it was limited to my parish, what provoked this request? Well now I know. The Bishop visited at confirmation time and was not pleased with what he saw. My Pastor, Father Joe, printed the request of the Bishop this week in the bulletin for all to read along with his response. I will print the Bishop's letter here along with my recap of Father Joe's response. My emphases and [comments].

Dear Father Coschignano:
Recently I had the pleasure and the privilege of confirming young men and women in your parish. It was a beautiful moment and one that I very much appreciated. I thank you for the warm welcome that you gave to me and also for the way that you and all those who work with you strive so much to make the experience of worshiping the Lord such a fulfilling and fruitful one.

As I mentioned to you during that day, I am very concerned about the comportment of the faithful in your parish church prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. I am not blaming anyone. I am not trying to say that anyone is at fault. I am simply saying that the comportment is not compatible with proper preparation for the celebration of Mass. This interferes with the ability of the people to enter into the liturgy and have the kind of active participation that the Second Vatican Council calls for.

In my judgment, a major reason for this is the fact that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel that is so removed from the main body of the church that no one knows where the Blessed Sacrament is. I don’t mean that literally but I mean that conscious awareness of’ the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is lacking to those who enter the main body of your parish church. This is further hampered by the fact that the music ministry is set up in front of the doors into that chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. That means that anyone who wishes to go and pray needs to go through the paraphernalia of those who provide music. I find this problematic. [Yes! Yes! Problematic is a very diplomatic understatement.]

In the document of the United States Bishops “Built of Living Stones - Art, Architecture, and Worship” [Irony! Built of Living Stones being used as a defense of common sense. That made me laugh!] which is the normative document of the Bishops Conference in the United States on liturgical matters § 74 §, it is clear that the Blessed Sacrament is to be placed in such a way in the body of the Church that whether it is in the chapel or not, it must be visible to those who come to worship. This is consistent with the documents of the Second Vatican Council as well as with the most recent documents of the Holy See including Redemptionis Sacramentum. Therefore, I am directing you to begin a process of locating the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament in the main body of the ‘church. The most simple thing would be to place it in the center of the reredos in the place which clearly set up to have a tabernacle, and where at the last liturgy I celebrated there was a bouquet flowers. [I loved this line.

Courtesy of Leticia at
Causa Nostrae Laetitiae

The Church has a beautiful reredos
. the flowers there in place of the tabernacle has always annoyed me. I am glad to know that I am not alone.]
However you do this, I would like to have you give me by September of this your plan for the relocation of the tabernacle. Relocating the tabernacle in and of itself will not be sufficient. Therefore, I am asking to begin a process of educating your people about the reverence that is due to the Blessed Sacrament when they enter church and so long as they are in church. [Father Joe has started this. More on that in a bit.] If over summertime and into the Fall you can do a series of articles in the bulletin announcements from the pulpit or a combination of these and other things, I believe you would do a great service to the People of God in Saint John the Evangelist Parish you would have a parish that would become ever more closely united to the Lord and bear much fruit not only in terms of the spiritual life of your parishioners but also in other important elements for the life of the Church such as vocations to the priesthood. [Amen!]

Please do net see this as anything but an act of support for you and for the good work you do as pastor. You and I share the pastoral responsibility for Center Moriches. I would be remiss if I did not say this to you. I say it to you as my brother and as my collaborator with full confidence that you have both the love of your people and the pastoral skills good and holy priest to bring this about for the present and future good of the Body Christ in Center Moriches.

Please know that The Office Worship is at your disposal to help you in this process. If I can be of any help, you know that wish so to be.

With my prayers and best wishes, I am
Fraternally yours in Christ,
William Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre


This is wonderful! Trust me when I tell you the St. John's is by no means the poster child for irreverence. I have been to many other parishes that are much more in need of a similar loving correction.

With that said, I am so glad that Bishop Murphy took notice of the problem, keenly identified the root cause, and followed up. This is excellent pastoral leadership. Equally good has been Father Joe's response. He quickly and happily complied with the Bishop by printing a series of articles in the bulletin about proper deportment in Church and then spoke at all the masses last week on the topic. He also indicated that he will be moving a number of activities out of the church itself so as to foster an environment of prayer.

He has also announced that he is preparing for a ceremony to move the tabernacle. I cannot wait for this. My great thanks and appreciation for their wonderful leadership and pastoral care in helping making the Eucharist, source and summit of our faith, once again front and center.

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43 comments:

Mary said...

What a lovely letter from the bishop! I'm always happy to see someone more concerned with fixing the problem than affixing blame.

Sounds almost as if the pastor was just waiting for some support to "do the right thing" -- possibly countervailing pressure in the parish?

Anonymous said...

It is great that there is a ready made space for the move.

It is nice the bishop did the follow up on a visit.


It is silly - given all the parishes that have the tabernacle in the sanctuary or slightly off to one side or the other - to imply it will magically change issues of lack of reverence or increase vocations.

Anonymous said...

But where will they put the lovely bouquet of flowers if they have to put this tabernacle thingmabob in the place previously reserved for floral arrangements?

Leticia said...

Who cares,they were fake anyway!
As a parishoner of St. John's I am more than thrilled about this. It has bothered me for years. I will be posting on the return of reverence in my parish, as Jesus is restored to His rightful place in the center of our church!
Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

One of the parishes in my town has a beautiful main altar, very tall and covered in wonderful carvings. It now has a one of the same "fake" arrangements since the tabernacle was moved to the back of church. Where we can all have our back to Jesus for a good part of the Mass. I see people genuflecting to the flowers all the time, forgetting that Jesus is in the back. Sad, sad, sad. Can I get this bishop for a day or two?

Patrick Archbold said...

Leticia,
I was thinking of you when I read the letter. I knew you would be as thrilled as I am.

I hope Bishop Murphy continues to eat his Wheaties or whatever he is doing!

Anonymous said...

"Leticia said...
Who cares,they were fake anyway!
As a parishoner of St. John's I am more than thrilled about this. It has bothered me for years. I will be posting on the return of reverence in my parish, as Jesus is restored to His rightful place in the center of our church!
Awesome post!"





Seems like some don't know what the purpose of the tabernacle really is.


This can lead to folks making the mistake that Jesus 'steps out of it' at mass for the consecration to 'take over' the priest's body.

Or the error that reserved sacrament is some sort of starter for a mass in process and required in some way.

frival said...

Shortly after our new pastor came he made passing mention that he would love to move the tabernacle back to the center from its little chapel-esque hiding place. His big problem now is in finding or buying something appropriate on which to place it - the church now has a people's altar and there is easily 50 feet between the altar and the wall with nothing but air and chairs. With any luck the whole sanctuary will be re-reformed, but that's a tremendous undertaking.

It is good to see your bishop taking an active role in making sure things are done correctly. Sometimes the "chief liturgist" title can be used for good!

Vince C said...

"Seems like some don't know what the purpose of the tabernacle really is.

This can lead to folks making the mistake that Jesus 'steps out of it' at mass for the consecration to 'take over' the priest's body.

Or the error that reserved sacrament is some sort of starter for a mass in process and required in some way."

What?! I had no idea this was such a likely occurance! What alternative Universe has this even happened in?? Shows what I know.

Anonymous said...

Wow, wow, wow!! What a wonderful bishop!! I'm almost giddy with delight reading that letter.
I'm in a parish where the Tabernacle is 'off the the side' of the altar.
I see people coming into the church and genuflect in everywhich direction EXCEPT towards the Tabernacle. I don't blame them; they just obviously haven't been properly catechized.
Let's keep praying that ALL our parishes and dioceses will have bishops strong and faithful enough to address this issue.

Anonymous said...

Amen!!! What a great and Holy Bishop !!

Anonymous said...

How does moving the tabernacle 'restore' anything regarding Jesus?



A tabernacle does not have to have any reserved sacrament in it and it is really nothing with the reserved sacrament - as can be seen in many old churches with multiple altars and corresponding tabernacles.

Anonymous said...

Not only a wonderful bishop, but a wonderful priest to take the bishop's request without the bridling lots of us would feel at an implied criticism.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Bishp Murphy, reverence, reverence, reverence, that's what it's all about. also, belief in our Lord's True Presence in the tabernacle. Wish our bishop would do the same.

Anonymous said...

I am a member of the diocese of RVC and am very happy about Bishop Murphy doing as he has done. I have had my issues with the Bishop over the years before the latest Moto Propio from the Blessed Father on allowing the Traditional Latin Mass be said, which he only allowed in one church in the entire diocese. St Agnes has mass in Spanish and other parishes as televised on the diocese station Telecare have African masses, Spanish and everything you can name, but he refused the TLM.

He may want to now start looking at all of the parishes in the diocese with no crucifix next as I can count how many are exactly without christ on the cross but instead have the Protestant "risen Christ"

Pray for the bishop, the Pope and a full restoration in all things in Christ

Alice Gunther said...

What a great letter by our bishop! I am proud of him.

May God bless him always!

Thank you for a very interesting and uplifting post.

Aristotle said...

In the past I have occasionally attended First Saturdays with my parents at this church. I'm very, very elated at this development; finally the reredos have a true focal point.

I hope that something similar happens with the tabernacle at St. Mary's in Roslyn, my childhood parish.

Greg said...

A Blessing indeed. Our Church did the same, moved the tabernacle from a distant position on the left front of the church, where one would normally find a statue of Mary, back to the center of the altar, under the cross of St. Francis. Then Mary was moved from the right side of the church to the left, and St. Joseph placed on the right. Oh the times they are a changing - back to the future.

Connie Johnson said...

We should all pray that Bishop Murphy can talk to others and they to take a stand, not only for the tabernacle but for the Catholic churches to go back to looking Catholic. I feel strong that when we tried to become more protestant is when the Catholics and our children started leaving. When the church puts Jesus back where he belongs in the center, and statues and stations of the cross so they can be found and seen as reminders, maybe then the people that have become weak catholics and our children, we believe and love there faith that isn't watered down. and confession is brought back, and priest speak of its importance more than at Easter and Christmas, and make people remember when you missed a mass you had to go to confession before receiving Jesus. Now no one takes the church serious and it did when I was a child in the 50s and 60s Pray for more Bishops and priest to see these things. What a Holy Bishop may they all look toward this Holy Man take steps with him.

kat said...

There are some great shops on-line that sell old church furnishings. Our TLM parish is building a new church because we are busting at the seams. The priest found an antique altar, stations, and sanctuary candleholder at king richards--- (you can google it)

No excuse for ugly 1970's church furnishings! Buy new, I mean old.

Anonymous said...

"It is silly - given all the parishes that have the tabernacle in the sanctuary or slightly off to one side or the other - to imply it will magically change issues of lack of reverence or increase vocations."

Well then, it goes to show you how faithful the Faithful are if they know of the tabernacle's presence and still act as they do. If it turned off the bishop, then yes, it will have a "magical" effect. As you pray, so do you believe...

Anonymous said...

It is NOT the tabernacle that is important.


Bottomline - it is a storage area.

Anonymous said...

Our Lord said to a privileged soul
recently. My tabernacle is being removed from the center of the altars. Why? I am not the center of your Lives?

Anonymous said...

We have the bishop's chair covering our tabernacle! God Bless your Bishop.

Anonymous said...

The tabernacle is NOT just a "storage area". It is the Ark of the Covenant! It is the place where our Eucharistic Jesus lives...Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!

Thanks be to God for this wonderful bishop and may God bless us with many more!

Anonymous said...

Major error ----


the tabernacle is NOT the 'ark of the covenant' - never was, never will be.


Who teaches that error? Who can document it as official church teaching???


It is NOT where Jesus 'lives' either.

It is the place to store the reserved sacrament IF there is any to be kept.

Anonymous said...

It is not a major error.

The reserved sacrement is JESUS.

It is not just a storage place.

Anybody who claims it is not were Jesus lives, has no clue.

Moronic statements like this are why the church is a mess.

This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Title: CCC Search Result - Paragraph # 1183
Keywords: -None-
Description: -None-
Body: 3 The tabernacle is to be situated "in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor." The dignity, placing, and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.
The sacred chrism (myron), used in anointings as the sacramental sign of the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, is traditionally reserved and venerated in a secure place in the sanctuary. The oil of catechumens and the oil of the sick may also be placed there

Anonymous said...

This Bishop you can take with a "grain of salt". Many of the parishoners in the Diocese know this too. Many of the Priests feel the same way. The tabernacle needs to be in a separate place where people can sit and pay respect. Many healings and miracles have taken place by the tabernacle while people have been in prayer.

Anonymous said...

NO ONE said the reserved sacrament was other than Jesus.

The tabernacle is not the same as the reserved sacrament - just as it is not the 'ark of the Covenant' or the place where Jesus 'lives'.

The CCC citation speaks of location of the tabernacle - it does not back up the claim of it being the 'ark' or where Jesus 'lives'.

Anonymous said...

Hurray for the Bishop

Interior decorators always point at in a home for a focal point. Out focal point in the church is the Altar, not the choir or the priest sitting high on a throne. It is our Lord that is the main attraction and it is because of Him that makes us Catholic different than any other religion. People of other faiths come to the Catholic church in time of distress, I know, for I have had the occation of such events. They felt comfortable even though they did not know why or understand that we have a Crucifix. We need more Bishops who will stand up and recognize what is important.

When I enter the church, I look for the tabernacle and sometimes you can not find it. The sanctuary light is also moved in some cases. I always look for the sanctuary light for I know I will find my Lord close by. A reminder why I am Catholic.

God Love you,

Anonymous said...

The Bishop could always put up a sign that says" This way to the Tabernacle". It is much cheaper than moving it and wasting the Parishoners money.

Anonymous said...

The sanctuary light is a sign that there is reserved sacrament in the tabernacle and is located near the tabernacle.

It is not about Jesus being 'nearby'.

If the light is not on the tabernacle is empty.

Kozaburo said...

Kudos to the Bishop, but keep in mind this bishop isn't exactly a champion of orthodoxy and orthopraxis. He's probably minding his ps and qs to avoid drawing more negative attention to himself since all of his scandals:

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ny-rockvillecentre/parishes_at_risk.htm

http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bmurphyw.html

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_18_39/ai_99019840

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02E0D81530F933A25750C0A9649C8B63

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_1_39/ai_94079322

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/06/22/placa/index_np.html

Kim said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!!! I recently went to the Sunday afternoon Mass at your parish (sorry, but that was a big mistake! Drums and yucky music) and was absolutely dismayed at the lack of the presence of the Tabernacle. In fact, as I was reading this post, it was your parish that came to mind...and then I read further about the band blocking the doors...and I thought to myself "Coincidence?" and then I saw the picture of the beautiful reredo and I KNEW I was thinking of the right parish. For the life of me I could not understand why there was a plant in the place of the Tabernacle. Now, I am happy to hear the Tabernacle will be front and center.

Now if only they could get rid of that crappy "Lifeteen" music junk and bring back real hymns into the Mass. I understand that this Mass is geared towards teens, but they deserve better. Heck, I've exposed my second-grade catechism class to Latin hymns...no reason that teens should get any less! :)

Anonymous said...

Another poster noted that the altar is the focal point of the church. It is where we celebrate the Mass. People forget that the tabernacle is not part of the altar.

Anonymous said...

Most of what has taken place, the demise of the appearance of the church, lack of reverence, attendance, un catechised youth, etc-mostly if not all has to do with Vatican II though never mentioned by name because one does not want to throw stones at a valid council, which I could not help but notice Bishop Murphy continued to refer to. If you read into his letter, his main reasoning for putting the blessed sacrament back was due to the "participation" of the laity as mandated by the Second Vatican Council. Do the laity really feel such a need to do a reading, sing and clap along, and walk through the sacresty? Do they need the attention that bad?


What I wonder is there anyway that the church can reverse this council without admitting that she was wrong?

Anonymous said...

There is no reason to 'reverse' Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

There is no reason to reverse Vatican II?

Well, by the fruits one shall know them!

I guess with the liturgy that is abused on down to clergy who abuse the youth, the liberalizing reforms have just done wonders for those who want to remain part of the church Christ established here on earth for one reason-Salvation of souls

When you have Shepherds such as those in Connecticut, Mahoney in LA, Law in Boston, on and on-responsible for the salvation of the souls of their flock but so willing to put them at risk, one has to look at the loopholes and liberal interpretation these 16 council documents have caused

The council of Trent was called for many reasons, much to do with the abuse of the liturgy.

One can only wait for such to take place probably not in my lifetime, but it will have to because the church can not go on the way it has where a gesture such as placing the blessed sacrament back in the center is cause for celebration!!

Anonymous said...

Are these complaints truly the 'fruits' of Vatican II?



Or are they the 'fruits' of those who objected to it, who found ways to undermine how it was implemented?

Anonymous said...

No, these are the fruits, as it is due to those who have fully embraced Vatican II and it penchant for vagueness, ambiguity, freedom of religion, and ecumenism that we have this problem today

Deny it would not be correct

But to embrace error would be to condone such

Anonymous said...

The tabernacle is based on the historic "Ark of the Covenant" which housed the Ten Commandments.

A Catholic tabernacle houses the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Christ IS the New Covenant in Eucharist Form.

The tabernacle is "the complete fulfillment of what the Ark of the Covenant represented!

Anonymous said...

Yes!!!

And so because Jesus Christ is the New Covenant in Eucharist Form...

The tabernacle is the "ark of the NEW Covenant"!!!

May God bless us all!

Praised be Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist!!

Deirdre Mundy said...

To the person who wants the tabernacle off in a side chapel so there's a place for quiet prayer --instead of front and center:

There's no reason why you can't have BOTH. Many churches now have a perpetual adoration chapel AND a centrally located tabernacle....

Jesus isn't limited to one physical location per church building, after all! =)

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