Dear Fr. Joe: Why did they remove the tabernacle from the main sanctuary off to the side? Why are we hiding Jesus away? First of all there are two appropriate places for the tabernacle in the Church. It can be in the sanctuary or in a separate chapel. The United States bishops released an important document about the design and structure of churches – Built of Living Stones. In paragraph #74 we read, “The bishop is to determine where the tabernacle will be placed and to give further direction. The bishop may decide that the tabernacle is to be placed in the sanctuary apart from the altar of celebration or in a separate chapel suitable for adoration and the private prayer of the faithful.” Our bishop allows either. Let’s take a look at both. One option is to place the tabernacle in the sanctuary of the Church. There are definite bonuses to this approach. With the tabernacle in plain sight it is another reminder that we are a Eucharistic people. If the tabernacle is to be located in the sanctuary, it should be placed so that it “does not draw the attention of the faithful away from the Eucharistic celebration” (#79). It also should allow for those periods of quiet prayer outside the celebration of the Eucharist (ibid.). Since the altar itself is a symbol of Christ and the place where we offer our Eucharistic sacrifice, the bishops suggest that there be “sufficient distance between the tabernacle and the altar”. The other option is to designate a separate chapel for the tabernacle which is “connected to the church and conspicuous to the faithful. The placement and design of the chapel can foster reverence and can provide the quiet and focus needed for personal prayer, and it should provide kneelers and chairs for those who come to pray” (#77). This, too, has distinct bonuses. With a separate chapel, prayer and adoration is possible in a special room affording more privacy. With a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament, we are making a powerful statement: This place is special. A separate chapel can also be a physical sign of the importance of the Eucharist. In general, the Church provides norms that express the importance of the Blessed Sacrament and the tabernacle that houses it. There should be only one tabernacle in a church; it should be beautifully designed, and in harmony with the decor of the rest of the church (#72). So where are we then? Hopefully, we are in a place where we can all agree that the Eucharist must be honored. Some churches will choose to honor the Blessed Sacrament in the sanctuary itself; others will honor it with a chapel. Both ways work. The bishop and his Office of Worship help a parish determine which is best for them and their worship space. The Eucharist is who we are. Its centrality in our liturgical life and our prayer life is, in many ways, what distinguishes us from other Christians. We believe that in the Eucharist, Jesus offers himself to us in a real and physical way. Let’s take today and thank God for the great gift of the Eucharist and dedicate our lives to Him. If moving the tabernacle to a side chapel causes you pain, consider praying about it before the Blessed Sacrament – wherever it is. Dear Fr. Joe: I am quite angry at some people at our parish over decisions they have made in our Church. I am angry and I am hurt. What should I do? Conflict stinks, doesn’t it? It is hard to learn to live together in peace when we keep stepping on each other’s toes! An early saint once said, “Community life is penance enough for anyone.” So, what do we do when two Christians disagree? Here are some rules that I have found helpful. First of all, we have to pray. I know, I know! I say that every time but it is a message in and of itself, right? Second, we have to go to the person who offended us. This is a must. Spreading talk about our anger is gossip, pure and simple. We can do great damage to someone’s reputation when we do that. Nobody likes to be talked about and we have to keep that in mind. Also, we need to do this face to face. Writing an anonymous letter is not only counterproductive, it is cowardly. When we go to that person (or persons), we must make sure we love them. Confronting someone we hate produces more anger – it doesn’t relieve it. So, even if we don’t feel love, we must remember our commitment to love. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Ouch! I don’t mean love as an emotion, but as a commitment on our part to see the person we disagree with as someone who Jesus died for and loves very much. Third, we have to assume the best. This means we assume their intent was to do the right thing – they love God as much as we do and are seeking holiness with purity of heart. Fourth, we have to keep in mind that our perceptions may be wrong and we have to be willing to accept that. I know all these steps are easy to write but hard to do. However, we are called to nothing less. How we disagree with someone can be a witness to the world about the power and value of Christianity. AND, in each of these steps we have to pray, pray, pray! We are incapable of acting this way through our own strength – it requires grace. Read and reflect on Matthew 18. Enjoy another day in God’s presence!