Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture?

…in which I rant, once again, about concerts, sanctuaries, and altars.

Photo taken at concert on November 10, 2012

The musicians and the singers
should not be placed in the sanctuary.

(Concerts in Churches, 
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, 1987,paragraph III.10.e.)

In this continuing case of musicians in the sanctuary, I’m just...well...I am very, very irritated about it.

Those people are performing in a sacred space – a space set aside for the priest to lead the people in the worship of God. They are crowded around the altar, which is consecrated. It is sacred even when there is no Mass going on. The Real Presence of Jesus has been brought down upon it many times. It is sacred! It is holy!

(I am reasonably sure that the Blessed Sacrament was not in the tabernacle, thanks be to God.)

Do you know what is the most important object in a church?

It is not the tabernacle, despite the fact that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved there. A church can still be a church if there is no Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle, or indeed if there is no tabernacle at all.

An appropriate vestment for the altar.
But a Catholic church cannot be a church without an altar. This is where the Holy Sacrifice takes place. This is where the host is transubstantiated into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives as Christians, and it is at Mass where we see the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is so little respect for the poor altar – which is a symbol of Christ Himself.
But even apart from all that – and really, shouldn’t it be a no-brainer that you don’t stage a concert from the sanctuary?! – here’s the deal:


Sure, they’re not all on the same level – some are more important than others. But they still exist. Are rules, even in the Church, “meant to be broken?”

When a layman or a priest or a bishop tells me that “it’s okay; they even do it that way in Rome,” I feel my blood pressure rise. Is the Church a democracy, run by the popular vote? Are the rules and regs determined just by saying, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it” or “Everyone else does it that way”?

Can’t you just hear your mom saying, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

“But Mom, they even do it in Rome!”

As I mentioned in my post on this topic the other day, you can’t just pick and choose which rules and regs you’re going to enforce and which are just not all that important. That leads down the ol’ slippery slope. It’s why so many Catholics think artificial contraception is okay.  It’s why they think no one really needs to go to confession. It’s why they think missing Mass on Sunday is not really a big deal.
And it’s why they use the altar as a tool bench when decorating the church, or as a sort of desk for various papers and notes, or as a resting place for a CD player to play a communion hymn at Mass when there’s no choir or cantor.

See that stack of papers? Notes, announcements, Mass intentions, etc...
on the altar...all the time.

It’s why our altars are adorned as dining room tables, or simply draped with a white cloth to serve as a backdrop for the week’s flower arrangement. 

Three examples:

Granny's breakfast nook table cloth?

Now that is one plain backdrop.'s the ALTAR?

The ubiquitous kindergarten altar "decor"

“Zeal for my Father’s house consumes me.”

As it should all of us.

Have I made a dent in that brick wall yet? I know my head is hurting!

Let us pray that the light goes on soon, and the glory of the altar is revealed to those who fail to see it now. Some of them just don't know any better.

For some very good commentary, photos, and explanations about the altar, see these links at The New Liturgical Movement blog:


  1. Unfortunately, liberals have learned that disobedience has worked in their favor in the past, so why not continue the practice. Their motto is that rules were meant to be broken (i.e. communion in the hand, facing the people, and the list goes on).

  2. Rules? They went away after Vatican II. Don't you know it's all about ecumenicism, being well liked in the community, yadda yadda. When the focus is on those that run the Church rather than the reason for the Church abuses of this sort will continue. Bishops show no leadership and Priests are not held accountable. End of story.

  3. Anonymous, I agree with you completely. Change in the Church must come from the top down, not from the bottom up. If the pope and the bishops will not do something, all the up in arms laity in the world aren't going to do it. Not without the voice of authority behind them.

    Don't hold your breath waiting for someone to get on the ball. I've been waiting fifty years.

    I doubt that I will see a complete turn around in the time I have left in this valley of tears. I am grateful that I remember well enough the way things once were. I'll let you in on a secret: the present day Church doesn't resemble that one in any way, shape or form.

  4. Ooops! That's me. Lorraine!

  5. That really is appalling, Jay. I'm guessing that it's not all that unusual either. And all those folks in the pews are undoubtedly talking, laughing and CLAPPING. After all, it's a show, a performance, a concert. But of course it's not surprising since our Mass, our Faith and our churches have become pseudo-protestant, for the most part. And in that modern Novus Ordo world, it's not an altar, it's the table. Good grief, so sad. It makes my stomach feel queasy and my heart heavy.

  6. The plus is that they did the Requiem Mass, mostly. This group generally does perform MOSTLY sacred music in the Cathedral. And the director is aware of the issue with the altar, and assured me that he makes sure no one is disrespectful of it. But he can't really guarantee that, and it's not the point; the very act of seating the musicians in the sanctuary is being disrespectful of the altar AND the sanctuary!


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