There’s some very encouraging news coming from the Diocese of Madison. Bishop Robert Morlino, well known nationally for his orthodoxy and devotion to the liturgy, has directed that all parishes in his diocese ensure that the tabernacle is located in a prominent, central location in the sanctuary.
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
As Christians around the world mark the birth of Christ in Bethlehem this Christmas season, many Madison-area Catholics are learning more about the profound role of the tabernacle in their parishes. Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino has directed priests to move the tabernacle to a prominent spot at the center of the sanctuary at all diocesan churches.
The directive was announced at an annual gathering of priests in September and could affect about half of the 134 worship sites in the diocese . . .
What’s the big deal? You call this news? Doesn’t he have other things to worry about? Well, this is a big deal. Here’s why. Quite often over the past few decades, tabernacles housing the Blessed Sacrament were moved from the sanctuary to a far less conspicuous location in the church, sometimes completely hidden from the faithful’s line of vision. Not surprisingly, this move coincided with a free fall in both reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament, and even understanding among the faithful of what the Church teaches regarding the Real Presence. In some cases, when a historic building, like a basilica, sees a high volume of tourists, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel so the faithful can pray in silence, apart from camera flashes and wandering, distracting visitors. Saint Peter’s Basilica has this arrangement. But most parishes do not meet this exception and so there is no reason why the Blessed Sacrament should not be front and center.
This bold move by Bishop Morlino is at once so simple and yet so significant. It is simple due to its logic. If we really believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, why wouldn’t we afford Him the highest, most conspicuous place of honor in the church? And at the same time Morlino’s directive is deeply significant because it is rare. In a time of widespread delegation of duties, it is not often that you hear of a bishop issuing such a specific order about the layout of all the parishes under his care. It is also rare to see such a sweeping directive aimed at undoing a specific action that took hold at so many parishes.
It is simple, bold changes like this (and this) that will slowly but surely rebuild the visible Church in the wake of the confusion of the past fifty years. Focus like a laser on the Eucharist and liturgy, coupled with strong, undiluted catechesis and you’ll see amazing things start to happen. It’s working in Madison. Ordinations are on the rise and a strong Catholic identity is starting to emerge.
Hopefully, this kind of initiative will be replicated across the state of Wisconsin and beyond. Care for the integrity of the liturgy and prominence given to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament should be a bishop’s top priority. Thank you, Bishop Morlino!