New Cathedral for the Saskatoon Diocese

The Diocese of Saskatoon has a new cathedral, and Salt and Light TV has coverage of the dedication ceremony. The portion of the coverage relating to the cathedral is the first 1:45 or so of this clip:

H/T: Justin Huyck

81 comments

  1. Would Mr. Neal be willing to share with this blog’s readers what he finds “horrific” about the Saskatoon Cathedral. Personally, the short video did not give me a sense of the entire space. I would like to visit it, if God so grants, and pray in it with a congregation to get a sense of it as a liturgical space.

    1. If you would kindly click the first link in the text of the post, you will be directed to a page where you can view the interior of the Cathedral to your liking.

    2. The inside looks like a rather run-of-the-mill 1970s Church, except more bland because of the neutral color scheme. That was my first impression based solely on the pictures.

      I’m not saying they needed to design a neoclassical or neo gothic building, but it comes off as someone’s mediocre take on retro-future design when compared to modern architecture in the secular realm.

  2. hmmm, fascinating

    There’s not enough of the clip to get an overall sense of the building.

    The font look spectacular – I would love to see it “in person.”

    I don’t think I cared for what i could see of the planes of the building exterior – it looked to me like an crude orgami. But again, that’s judging from a few pictures.

    If the sanctuary cross is as it appeared – a plain bare cross with the right arm curved up in a friendly arc, I would agree it is a fairly hideous idea.

    I like contemporary cathedrals a lot (San Francisco, Liverpool, LA for examples) but this looked like it was done on the cheap.

    Wonder if there is a pipe organ or some appliance?

    More information needed!

    1. There is indeed a large pipe organ and and a concert grand piano. From the Catherdal web site’s 360 image, I like the interior space.

    2. I’d have to agree with you on San Francisco’s which I think is absolutely stunning and also Liverpool’s. LA’s though left me rather disappointed, except for the tapestries and again the cathedra which I liked. The ambo did not appeal to me at all.

  3. One thing that cannot be discussed readily by people who have not been there: the natural acoustical properties of the space. The aural dimension of a church/cathedral is no less important than its visual dimension.

      1. No. It’s my standard caution when it appears likely that people will focus entirely on visuals….

  4. I did not like the new Cathedral in Oakland when I saw it in pictures but when I saw in in person it was a different story and I was fortunate enough to get to hear its great pipe organ and the acoustics were wonderful too. With modern archetecture there is always something I see that I would have liked to be done differently.
    The virtual view of the Cathedral here does not make it very clear which way the congregation is facing as it concerns the altar, ambo and cathedra. And of course, nothing is decorated in the sanctuary,so that gives it a rather sterile or stark view. The positioning of the altar and ambo looks odd in the virtual view too. Maybe a little bit more thought on the “reform of the reform” should have been given to the organization of the sanctuary and the “look” of the ambo and altar (although I like the cathedra). I think the cross on the back wall does not have a corpus so the building could pass as a Presbyterian Church if one didn’t know it was Catholic.

    1. Well, we should remember that, for centuries, cathedrals were decorated over centuries. Oakland may be spare now; in 100 years, it may have acquired a couple of generations of commissioned art.

  5. You state: “……Maybe a little bit more thought on the “reform of the reform” should have been given to the organization of the sanctuary and the “look” of the ambo and altar (although I like the cathedra). I think the cross on the back wall does not have a corpus so the building could pass as a Presbyterian Church if one didn’t know it was Catholic.”

    Posted on May 14th by Fr. Ruff – Rausch, SJ’s new book, “Eschatology, Liturgy, and Christology”

    Key parts:

    – Joseph Jungmann has traced the different developments in the theology and liturgy of the West. The early church’s worship was essentially corporate, dominated by the Easter motif that celebrated our victory over death assured for us by Christ’s resurrection. The emphasis was on the divinity of Jesus, now reigning in glory. But by the ninth and tenth centuries a shift of focus becomes evident. The image of the glorified Christ began to fade, overshadowed by the image of the crucified Lord in biblical illustrations and on the panels of church doors. By the eleventh century it had become customary to place a crucifix on the altar, and a century later the crucifix or a crucifixion group became the dominant subject on the wall behind the altar. As the theme of the Last Judgment became more prominent, an increasing emphasis was placed on the individual—on human action, subjectivity, and moral accomplishment.12 Pope Benedict XVI makes the same point in his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi: “In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer’s own soul” (no. 42).
    As Christ’s divinity was absorbed into his union with the Father, the notion of the church as the Body of Christ gradually faded. The church was described as the mother of all the faithful or as the Bride of Christ. The language of the liturgy was no longer understood by the faithful, the altar was moved farther away from the people into the apse of the church, and only the priest could enter the sanctuary. The church began to be represented by the clergy, who acted on behalf of the faithful, with the result that the “corporate character of public worship, so meaningful to early Christianity, [began] to crumble at the foundations.”
    He goes on to add: “The symbolic direction of the Eastern liturgy was one of ascent, while in the West it is more one of Christ descending onto the altar.15

    – “Johann Baptist Metz also calls attention to a loss of eschatological anticipation in the liturgy. He asks, what is God waiting for? In spite of the response “until you come again in glory” that stands at the center of the eucharistic ritual, he questions whether the celebration is still a feast of expectation. Christianity has “detemporalized” its ideas of imminent expectation and the Second Coming. What is lost is the sense of awaiting, “while eschatology has been transformed into ethics.”16 The God of the biblical tradition is not bounded by historical time, Metz argues, but rather is to be described in terms of surprise, expectation, acceptance, and confrontation with the new.17

    So, the artist/creator of this cathedral and its santuary may be operating from a much more comprehensive theological and liturgical position than to just dismiss with a cheap shot – “appears the cross does not have a corpus so could be seen as a Presbyterian church”. Really – could have sworn that hundreds of years of catholic tradition used a bare cross and understood exactly what it meant and the Protestant Reformation didn’t change that at all. Is this another ROTR hang up? We celebrate a both/and – death and resurrection. Too much emphasis of either creates issues. In fact, the early church rarely focused on the crucifixtion – it was a scandal.

    1. So, the artist/creator of this cathedral and its santuary may be operating from a much more comprehensive theological and liturgical position than to just dismiss with a cheap shot

      I’ll dismiss it because the Cathedral’s design is grossly incompatible with the practicalities of celebrating the liturgy of the Church. No correct theological or liturgical position can be opposed to doing the work of the liturgy.

      1. Excuse me?

        Did you look at the same photographs and floor plans that I just did?

        “grossly incompatible”? It is to laugh. Bright, colorful, a clearly defined sanctuary with a central tabernacle to please the traditionalists … just because it doesn’t look like a second-rate 1/3 size knockoff of a medieval cathedral doesn’t mean it’s “opposed to doing the work of the liturgy”. Come off it.

      2. In fact, the plans, which I first saw in 2008, don’t include a central tabernacle (which would be a mistake in a cathedral anyways) but a separate chapel.

        What the cathedral lacks is any kind of reasonable arrangement for the sanctuary. How would you form up the Gospel procession? Where would it process to? The plans assume that the concelebrants and ministers all sit behind the Bishop, a bizarre choice that excludes them from his teaching. It also makes the celebration of the office nigh impossible. In a cathedral!

        Your addition of vitriol “Come off it.” Etc. doesn’t change the facts on the ground. And I find them surprising after years of reading your comments.

    2. I certainly found myself longing for the eschaton after viewing those pictures. How much longer must we stumble in this dark and terrible springtime? Maranatha!

  6. From what I could see it looks scrumptious – light and airy – and I love the windows. Like the arrangement of the assembly seating. Rather like Clifton?

  7. I’ll take this airy new cathedral any day when compared to Mother Angelica’s trad temple built to herself.

    1. LOL, with the money she poured into that abomination you could have built two or three nice parish churches.

      Though TV makes things look bigger . . . maybe its not really as monstrous as it looks on EWTN.

      1. I’ve been to the shrine in Hanceville. It and the church in Birmingham are both much smaller in person than I thought they’d be.

        Perhaps you consider them monstrosities and abominations, but it seems over-the-line to me when you call the Hanceville shrine a “trad temple built to herself“.

  8. The 360-degree camera shows the building at an incomplete stage. The pipe organ chamber is empty, for example. Clicking on the Features of the cathedral link gives another view, including the pipe organ, and also shows the ground plans. Yes, Nick, the whole building is reminiscent of Clifton Cathedral to me too.

  9. I’d only like to note, that this Cathedral was begun under the diocese’s previous bishop, Bishop Albert LeGatt. He’s no liturgical dummy. He had just completed his M.A. in Liturgy from Notre Dame, about a week before he was appointed bishop of Saskatoon. (He recently was appointed Archbishop of St. Boniface, Monitoba.) This is also quite in line with the CCCB document “Our Place of Worship” (the Canadian “version” of “Built of Living Stone”).

    1. “Our Place of Worship” has its problems, its seems to be more in line with the predecessor of Built of Living Stones. I’m not sure it is what I would use, but that’s just me.

      Also the keep in mind the pastor/rector of the parish would also have had considerable influence on the design of the project. I am aware that the altar/ambo arrangement was also present in the previous parish he pastored. I think it is a bit of what like Fr. Allen mentions below in how it was a fad of a particular era. The equality of the placement of the ambo and altar is not borne out in the Rite of Dedication of Church which sees the altar being in the natural center of a church.

  10. Thanks, Chuck – you have inserted some common sense into some of the “hyper-ventilating” comments.

    Yes, if you are going to judge – at least start with the Canadian Bishops’ document, Our Place of Worship. Then, you might find that this cathedral fulfills the aims/goals of the conference of bishops.

    Here is a commentary on liturgical space:

    http://www.litpress.org/excerpts/9780814639078.pdf

    Some points from Nathan Mitchell’s forward:
    – Action trumps aesthetics—or to put it better, the primary aesthetic of the liturgy is God’s holy, pilgrim people actively participating in the central sacraments of our salvation. We do not (or should not) hold worship spaces hostage to a particular “iconographic program” or to a particular “staging arena designed for choir, organ, and instrumentalists.” Every church’s best iconography is the people who worship there (shabby, soup-stained, and wrinkled though they be)
    – Principle 4: Christian worship is not “altar-centered” or “ambocentered,” but both.
    – Principle 5: Finally, Christian worship is the starting point, not the destination. Liturgy is activity with a profoundly eschatological character; it is “food for the journey,” but not the journey’s final goal.

    1. Action trumps aesthetics—or to put it better, the primary aesthetic of the liturgy is God’s holy, pilgrim people actively participating in the central sacraments of our salvation. We do not (or should not) hold worship spaces hostage to a particular “iconographic program” or to a particular “staging arena designed for choir, organ, and instrumentalists.” Every church’s best iconography is the people who worship there (shabby, soup-stained, and wrinkled though they be)

      Which of course was precisely my point. I complained not about the aesthetic choices, the inconography, etc. But precisely that the space doesn’t fit the action of the liturgy.

      – Principle 4: Christian worship is not “altar-centered” or “ambocentered,” but both.

      Putting them both awkwardly near, but not in, the middle like has been done here, dilutes their strength and makes their ritual relationship unclear. Better to align them along the architectural axis, with a clear appearance of relationship and with space to carry out the liturgical actions that show create that relationship (e.g. the Gospel procession as I noted above.)

      1. It was quite customary in the 70’s to suggest that in renovating churches or building new ones that the altar be on one side, the ambo on the other and the priest’s presiding chair behind but in the middle. It also came from the perspective, celebrated in some places and I experienced it at St. Meinrad’s Arch-abbey in the ’80’s when I was vocation director, that the Liturgy of the Word took place in one location of the arch abbey church and then everyone processed to the altar that was in another location (moved to the entrance doors of the church, and a giant picnic looking table) for the Liturgy of the Eucharist which everyone stood around. The discontinuity here with the original unreformed Mass is that in the EF the Word and Eucharist are “served” if you will, from the one “table” or altar–the word is proclaimed from the altar and the Eucharist celebrated on the same and received from the same. This theology still holds true today, when the Book of the Gospels is placed on the center of the altar and then taken from the altar to be proclaimed.
        The correlation, I guess one could make, is that when we eat a formal meal in our homes, we eat everything normally from the one table. All courses are served at the table. The antipasti in Italian culture is not served elsewhere but at the table and everything else too. Our Cathedral in Savannah in the 1970’s almost had the renovation of having its altar and ambo equally distributed with the bishop throne in the middle, until a an uprising from a group called, “Save our Cathedral” put that liturgical design plan from Rambusch into the archives.

  11. Many Japanese homes today contain at least one washitsu or “Japanese” room. While many Japanese people today have embraced “western-style” home architecture, many houses and apartments contain a room with tatami reed floors and shoji paper-paned doors. This convergence of diverse traditions under one roof fosters coexistence of customs and traditions within daily lives.

    I would hear Mass at the Saskatoon cathedral. Yet, I, and perhaps others, would feel as if they were transversing Mars when entering a pew for the first time. Disorientation often reawakens a person’s understanding of himself or herself within a liturgy. Still, is there not a place for liturgical heritage within innovation, a locus of return within great strides into ever more daring architecture?

    Perhaps future cathedrals in the vein of Holy Family Cathedral might include a chapel akin conceptually to a washitsu room. The chapel would have an apse-chancel-nave floor-plan, a freestanding altar arranged with space for ad orientem celebration and Byzantine liturgical processions, a mensa large enough to accommodate all of the liturgical fixtures and items proper to Byzantine and Extraordinary liturgical celebrations, and an altar rail with doors. Here traditional Roman Catholics and Byzantine Catholics could offer Mass and Divine Liturgy in a space conducive to these rites.

    This chapel of Byzantine and Roman liturgical heritage would not be a retreat from postmodernity. Rather a “traditional” chapel would represent the diversity of the Universal Church within a particular diocese. An extremely cautious application of architectural metaphor from contemporary Japanese culture suggests that the presence of an embodied liturgical past need not be divisive but rather complimentary.

    1. I think the ideal for me would be to have a cathedral with more than one chapel/room attached, which it turns out to be quite reminiscent of older structures of that sort with their Lady Chapels and other ones (the two remaining churches in the Intramuros precinct of Manila are a good example). What you have suggested is as much traditional than an appropriation of contemporary Japanese architecture.

      1. re: Ren Aguila on May 17, 2012 – 9:36 pm

        Thanks, Ren. This is a good point. Smaller chapels or semi-enclosed side altars are certainly common in the history of western Christian basilical or cathedral architecture. Inter oecumenici §93 explicitly prefers separate chapels to the proliferation of side altars within the nave of a larger church.

        Often side chapels are places for the reservation of the eucharist or sites for the veneration of an icon, relic, statue, or similar. Certainly it is still quite common for ferial Masses to be offered on a basilica’s altar of eucharistic reservation. Still, the presence of a side chapel does not at all imply that a distinctive rite should or even must take place with its boundaries.

        The chapel I propose would be expressly designed for the older rites of the Universal Church, given that the sanctuary of Saskatoon’s cathedral (and perhaps future cathedrals in its ilk) cannot easily accommodate the Byzantine or Tridentine eucharistic liturgies. This inadequacy perhaps communicates that these rites and their adherents are not welcome in the diocesan home. The peril of side chapels in this case resides not with the possibility of architecture but the implicit language of ritual exclusion and inclusion. This question travels far beyond the architectural politics of earlier basilicas and cathedrals.

    2. re: Jordan Zarembo on May 17, 2012 – 12:33 am

      A final clarification —

      I recognize that the celebration of Byzantine Divine Liturgies in Roman Catholic churches is uncommon, though not exceedingly rare. However, it is entirely possible that a priest and a congregation of EF faithful in Saskatoon might wish to celebrate Mass on the high altar of the cathedral. The sanctuary design chosen greatly hampers this possibility.

      While Christian ecumenism is important, and ecumenical services of the Word or common celebrations of liturgical hours are a good idea, it is important to not forget the less common liturgies of one’s own rite and even fellowship with the diversity of rites in the Universal Church. Holy Family Cathedral’s sanctuary design has unfortunately communicated the sentiment that not all Roman Catholics are invited to worship in the diocesan home according to their accustomed worship. An occasional episcopal visit to an EF parish is quite important for diocesan life and the life of that particular parish. Still, should not that parish express its treasured heritage outside of its parish boundaries?

      1. Ukrainian Catholics have their own cathedral in Saskatoon, while “Catholic Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite” in Saskatoon have their proper cathedral in Toronto. Most people would be astonished by Cathedrals constructed for use by multiple rites. Would it have to have multiple Cathedral?

        Basilica are another matter. Immaculate Conception in Washington DC has side chapels designed by and for different ethnic groups, some who belong to different rites. It is meant for the whole US, but it is not a cathedral.

        The EF is another matter, but I do not see why it could not be celebrated here; if the barnlike St Peter’s in Rome can accommodate the EF, I can’t imagine many places that would not do. Is it that you might actually have to pay attention in Saskatoon, unlike the traditional disjunction between laity and clergy in the Tridentine rite?

      2. re: Jim McKay on May 18, 2012 – 2:47 pm

        Thank you Jim for the information. I have indeed confused the role of Saskatoon’s cathedral with a national basilica, such as Immaculate Conception. No pressing need exists to offer liturgical hospitality to Catholic rites not Roman.

        The figurative and literal centrality of the altar in the Mass remains crucial. Pope Pius VI’s condemnation of the doctrinal innovations at the Synod of Pistoia (1786) affirmed the validity of Mass celebrated without a congregation. Pius condemned as erroneous the notion that lay communicants must be present at a Mass to ensure its validity (Auctorem fidei §28 = DS 2628) Therefore, the ambo is not strictly necessary for a valid Mass, as lections may be said entirely from the altar in Extraordinary Form or from a reading-desk (vel ex pluteo) in the Ordinary Form (IMGR 2002 §260). For these reasons, I find Holy Family Cathedral’s equivocation of the altar and ambo disconcerting. If an ambo is not strictly necessary for Holy Mass, why exaggerate its size and presence in false equation with the altar? This false equation also significantly diminishes the altar as the geographical center of the sanctuary (Inter oecumenici §91)

        A priest’s pes meus stetit in directo is realized within liturgical orientation.  By placing the ambo and altar side-by-side without purposeful distinction distorts not only liturgical orientation as historically understood in both the eastern and western Christian traditions, but also perhaps the very focus on the sacrificial victim.  Holy Family Cathedral’s architects have washed their hands of the historical continuity between the reformed rite and older but still valid Roman liturgical norms.

      3. If the Temple of living stones, the people of God, need not be present for the Eucharist, I find it hard to imagine that the temple of natural stone has to be in some particular configuration.

        That is my sense of the EF, of which I have virtually no experience in the last 50 years so I am no expert. My memory is of uncoordinated actions like rosaries and stations going on behind the back of an unoticing priest. I remember a story of a pious soul who would position herself in the cathedral to catch the critical moments of 3 different masses going on at various altars, and thus attending 3 masses at once.

        In that atmosphere, the altar is central, no matter where it is. Where it is with respect to the stones is as critical as where it is with respect to the people, ie not at all. Designing for the EF I would certainly place it centrally, but I don’t see the problem with celebrating at some other configuration.

      4. If the Temple of living stones, the people of God, need not be present for the Eucharist…

        Clearly, at least one of those living stones must be present. 😉

      5. re: Jim McKay on May 20, 2012 – 10:34 pm

        It’s quite erroneous to suggest a correlation between a person’s intellectual comprehension of the spoken prayer of the Mass and the practice of devotions during Mass. I love praying the rosary at Mass. This love is independent of my ability to understand spoken Latin. Oftentimes I am frankly uninterested in the propers of the day. I am content to place my burdens down and kneel at the side of the cross. Who better to guide me to the cross than the Mother of God? Laypersons who formerly recited the rosary during Tridentine Low Mass might have known a greater serenity and probity of devotion than a person who conscientiously read his or her hand-missal or made every dialogue response.

        Paul VI specifically deprecates the recitation of the rosary at Mass in Marialis Cultus §48,

        “However it is not correct (“non sine errore est“, Vatican English trans. “it is a mistake”) to recite the [mariale] rosary during the liturgical action, as sometimes sadly still happens to take place.” (my trans., parens., brackets). I do wonder if “it is a mistake” is a somewhat weak translation for “non sine errore est“.

        Regardless of the gravity of Pope Paul’s admonition, I am convinced that the progressive sharp rejection of personal devotion at Mass illustrates the very different liturgical priorities of progressive and traditional Catholics. It appears that a more progressive liturgical viewpoint places the assembly as the authority and source for the sacrificial liturgical action, where as a more traditional viewpoint places the authority and source in ex opere operato doctrine. This traditional Catholic views the recitation of the rosary at Mass as receptivity to the sacrifice which is completed by the intrinsic nature of sacramental formula, regardless of the laity.

      6. Jordan,

        I am confused by your note. Are you saying it is “quite erroneous” for Paul VI to “deprecate the recitation of the rosary at Mass”? How do you reconcile your position with the letter of SC, which calls for greater participation at Mass?

        In any event, I am not against the praying of the rosary, doing the stations, etc. I was just recalling my experience of the Tridentine rite as a child, when the congregation was not a coherent group but many people going different directions. I am surprised that you appreciate that aspect; I was expecting you to reject it.

      7. re: Jim McKay on May 21, 2012 – 8:16 am

        I apologize Jim; the last post was poorly worded. I consider the position held by many that interior reflection or personal devotion during Mass to be “erroneous” (that was not a good word to use. Maybe “not often true” instead?)

        I gather that Pope Paul in Marialis Cultus is actively discouraging the use of rosary beads during Mass, as well as mumbled or even out-loud recitation of the decades. Certainly, beads don’t belong at Mass. However, I doubt that Pope Paul would have deprecated mental prayer or meditation during Mass. I do not see how the silent recitation of a decade of the rosary, the Jesus prayer, or an act of contrition before communion (for example) is against the principle of active participation. The quieter periods of the Mass are especially conductive to mental reflection.

        I interpret SC‘s exhortation to active participation as an admonition against apathy at Mass. Vernacularization is crucial, as this has allowed many to participate consciously in the liturgical action. However, one can mentally process the lections and speak responses but actually be thinking of unrelated thoughts. Also, one can be silent and meditative, but attentively listen to and reflect upon the prayers. I suggest that “active participation” encompasses comprehension (aurally or visually through reading), meditation, response, and silent prayer. I do not interpret SC‘s active participation as the elevation of response above the other three crucial components of participation.

  12. As a member of the Saskatoon Diocese and one who attended the Dedication last Sunday, I am greatly intrigued and amused by the rash comments about our new diocesan home based on a few mere images online. How easy it is to criticize something with only partial info! Watch Salt & Light TV this Sunday evening May 20 — they’re broadcasting the May 13 celebration of this simple yet beautiful ecclesial home inspired by the Canadian prairies and its people, being the first eco-friendly cathedral in the world with solar energy cells embedded in the stained glass to generate all the electricity it needs plus more.

  13. From America magazine today:

    http://www.americamagazine.org/content/culture.cfm?cultureid=275

    Money quote:

    “It also breaks with the widespread practice of placing the tabernacle somewhere other than at the heart of the sanctuary, the rules for which are clearly outlined in “Built of Living Stones” (2000), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directive on church architecture. In St. John Neumann Church, the reserved Blessed Sacrament is afforded optimum visibility behind the altar, where it is doubly tented beneath the domes of a metal tabernacle and marble ciborium.”

    1. BLS 74 says that “There is a number of possible spaces suitable for eucharistic reservation”, and that “The bishop may decide that the tabernacle be placed in the sanctuary apart from the altar of celebration or in a separate chapel”.

      The US bishops (in general) permit the tabernacle to be in the sanctuary or in a separate chapel (BLS 77-80); has the bishop of this particular Tennessee diocese issued more specific guidelines about tabernacle placement?

    2. Actually, the “rules” in “Built of Living Stones” clearly outline that it’s acceptable to place the tabernacle in the sanctuary:

      § 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.” 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.

      1. All three of you seem to have missed the point. Built of lLiving Stones, as you quoted, lays down these guidelines for the bishop: 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.

        These principles point away from placing the tabernacle “at the heart of the sanctuary,” though it may be elsewhere in the sanctuary, as you say. A tabernacle at the heart of the sanctuary probably distracts from the eucharistic action at the altar (and the Gospel proclamation at the ambo), and it appears not to be the custom in the area. That leaves the piety of the people as a possible reason. Is there a piety that prefers the reserved Eucharist over the living presence of Christ in the liturgy?

      2. Jim, you can’t read the “spirit” of the document against the letter. The document clearly provides that either one is an option. The piety of the people and the custom of the area in fact may both argue for placing the tabernacle in the sanctuary. (Though I don’t argue for this in a Cathedral church as I noted above.)

      3. Jim

        You are reading the principles as if they so point away. But they do not necessarily. They don’t even “probably.” They might. They might not. The bishop decides, and he can (but need not) defer to local choice. In a cathedral, presumably the bishop would have had some say since it’s also his own church.

        We need to stop make a shibboleth out of tabernacle placement. It’s extraordinarily dispiriting.

      4. Jim, I do not agree that all three of those principles point away from placing the tabernacle “at the heart of the sanctuary”. (What is the “heart” of the sanctuary, anyway?)

        Do we know for a fact that the tabernacle, in the place where it is in the church in question, distracts the faithful from the liturgical action? (“Probably,” you say. Based on what?)

        Do we know what the custom of that area/diocese of Tennessee is regarding the location of the tabernacle? (I don’t live there and I don’t know the tabernacle’s location in the church building that preceded this one.)

        Do we know whether there is a prevailing piety which prefers the reserved Eucharist to be in the presence of the living presence of Christ in the liturgy? (I don’t see why you pit these two against each other.)

      5. As I read this, there is no suggestion that it is inappropriate to place the tabernacle in the sanctuary. BLS is cited for the rationale behind not placing it “at the heart of the sanctuary” which is not the same as placing it in the sanctuary. The principles I cited concern placement within the sanctuary as well as within the church.

        I don’t know where the heart of the sanctuary is, but as the heart it would be central, a most important place. Almost by definition, something at the heart is going to attract more attention than something going on elsewhere. Hence my assertion that the tabernacle at the heart will probably distract from what is not at the heart.

        The article about this church is about the novelty of its design. As if to accentuate its departure from standardized models of postconciliar church-building, the design of St. John… it is not a huge leap from there to the conclusion that it is not customary.

        The letter of BLS is that the bishop should consider these principles, which discourage placement at the heart of the sanctuary unless custom or popular piety prevail. And that is all the article claims. “At the heart of the sanctuary” is not the same as ‘in the sanctuary.’

      6. The tabernacle at St. John Neumann is placed in the center of the back wall of the sanctuary. I would not consider that the “heart” of the sanctuary in terms of layout. The altar appears more central in the sanctuary, and thus (to me) in the heart of the sanctuary. There’s nothing happening at the tabernacle for the vast majority of the Mass, it does not loom over the people, it does not upstage anyone… I don’t think it’s a distraction.

        “As if to accentuate its departure from standardized models of postconciliar church-building, the design of St. John…” — That still does not settle whether what is “customary” is referring to local custom or (world)wide custom.

      7. Find these types of discussions to go nowhere. But (there is always a but):

        Fr. Ruff has outlined the sacramental and liturgical hierarchy of values. This hierarchy places the community’s ritual action as primary. This is deliberate and based upon the theology and decisions from Vatican II (not just SC) and a reform from pre-VII (let’s be honest – too much of the “mass” for generations had devolved to a priest/host mentality with little interaction from the people. In fact, for a period communion was rare. Obviously, this is a broad generalization but is captured in the notes and research of the VII experts.)

        At the same time, there was a deliberate reform to get back to the unity of the community action around the altar/table of the Lord and that this action is both word and eucharist. Ressourecement showed that for centuries there was no “tabernacle” – eucharist was “reserved” for only one purpose – to bring to the sick, imprisoned, etc.

        So, a list of values is a good starting place but you have to drill down to sources, background, and reasons for why the values have been articulated in this way. Read a number of documents by the Canadian bishops conference in the 1980’s on eucharistic liturgy – see the works of Baum, Guzie, Martos. Ask yourself – why was “reservation of blessed sacrament” third? (these values aren’t equal) In fact, many comments here start with the final document and highlight not the sacramental theology but, rather, the fact that the bishop can make a final practical decision. (lousy comparison but it is like starting with a judge’s ability to set a penalty for running a red light and not ever discussing the “common good”; “common safety”; etc.)

        Thus, you get the BLS document which the conference uses to articulate these values and reforms. Would suggest that the placement of the tabernacle in this document was “practical” and one of the last steps. The purpose and intent was to start with VII’s eucharistic theology. Actually, BLS is a beginning that is pastoral in allowing for exceptions; allowing for “wiggle room” based upon specific parish needs, etc.

        That being said, if the central value is the community’s ritual eucharistic action and reception of communion – the tabernacle placement usually would be in a eucharistic side chapel. You and I can argue about whether behind the altar hinders or not (but, really, beyond examples that we each could use to either show it hindered or it did not and to what effect?) but where does that get us. Would be pretty sure any expert will tell you that the VII decisions see a tabernacle in the sanctuary as a “practical” exception only.

        Yes, you can go on and cite how the indult and mutual enhancement changes all this but based upon what – a very narrow self report from a very small minority. Mr. Aquila’s suggestion, IMO, is best practice. Also, think about the many SC/VII directives that have “never” happened – example in this area – we overwhelmingly continue to use “reserved hosts fromt the tabernacle” when SC wanted that to be a “rare exeption” – in fact, that is another area where the “tabernacle” has continued its place in the community ritual when that was not the intent.

      8. The tabernacle being placed at the back wall of the sanctuary does not at all interfere with the ritual eucharistic action and reception of communion. I would need to have it explained to me more explicitly how the tabernacle in that placement could hinder the liturgical celebration.

        a tabernacle in the sanctuary as a “practical” exception only

        By “practical” you mean “convenient” here? I admit that having the tabernacle in the sanctuary is convenient, but there is sign value in the proximity of the altar to the tabernacle, as the presence in the latter comes from the presence on the former. The ritual action carried out on the altar is sustained and continued (in a way) in the tabernacle.

        you can go on and cite how the indult and mutual enhancement changes all this

        I wouldn’t consider doing that, although I would probably invoke the “continuity” buzzword…

        Mr. Aquila’s suggestion, IMO, is best practice.

        Who is that? What is his suggestion?

      9. Again, JP – you focus on the last decision – placement.

        You again state -“I admit that having the tabernacle in the sanctuary is convenient, but there is sign value in the proximity of the altar to the tabernacle, as the presence in the latter comes from the presence on the former. The ritual action carried out on the altar is sustained and continued (in a way) in the tabernacle.”

        Thanks – your statement, IMO, exactly captures how you mix and confuse the two……”as the presence in the latter comes from the presence on the former…..the ritual action out on the altar is sustained and continued in the tabernacle.” Really? IMO, you have mixed an approach to sacraments as “objects that bring grace” with the community action which is the sacrament. That sacrament is best made present in those community members who have participated and now go forth nourished by the word/eucharist to carry out the mission of Christ. (in a perfect world, there would be no “hosts” left over and thus no need for a tabernacle). The focus is always on the people of God, their sacramental action, and their mission.

        You have perfectly expressed why, IMO, placement can run a danger of confusing and setting up a “mixed” sacramental theology.

        Practical – means more than convenient, I hope. Think about old churches, cost/expense to renovate, small churches, rural churches with small congregations and small budgets, etc. These are practical in a different sense from convenient – would hope that the “convenient” would give way to the “best in liturgical ritual”.

      10. All I was trying to do was point out that BLS does have “rules” for a bishop to consider when placing the tabernacle, as Mr Aquila stated in America. The repeated assertion that the tabernacle may be placed in the sanctuary is only one of those rules. There are multiple rules, not just in the sanctuary or outside of it.

        This is the “letter” of BLS, not the spirit as some have hypothesized. These rules make it hard to adopt the behind the altar configuration, but not impossible. (one has to argue that behind the altar is not at the heart of the sanctuary, and no one really notices it there, strange criteria indeed!)

        JP seems to have accepted this, or he would not have argued that the tabernacle at St John Neumann’s is not at the heart of the sanctuary. That is as far as I would take this.

      11. you focus on the last decision – placement.

        Your selection of the “money quote” from the America article began with a sentence about “the widespread practice of placing the tabernacle somewhere other than at the heart of the sanctuary”, so that is what I have been talking about: the placement of the tabernacle.

        your statement exactly captures how you mix and confuse the two … you have mixed an approach to sacraments as “objects that bring grace” with the community action which is the sacrament

        Well, I do believe that sacraments are “outwards signs of inward graces”, and I believe that the faithful celebrate the sacraments, so I suppose I am mixing the two. Whether I’m confusing them, I do not know. It seems to me that all the sacraments have a “lasting presence”, but usually only in the persons themselves. (An encounter with a confirmed Catholic is not the same as an encounter with the chrism.) But the Eucharist has a special rank among the sacraments since it too, and not just those who receive it, is a presence of the Author of grace.

        That sacrament is best made present in those community members who have participated and now go forth…

        I did not pit the continued presence of the sacrament in the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle against the continued presence/effect of the sacrament in the people who go out into the world. I just meant to say that the tabernacle holds a sort of memento or reminder (or memorial?) of the ritual celebration, which is true in and of itself even when we are not. I’m not saying that the Eucharist in the tabernacle makes up for our personal failings to manifest Christ’s presence to all we meet; just that the Eucharist is still there. I’m not trying to set one against the other.

        in a perfect world, there would be no “hosts” left over and thus no need for a tabernacle

        And there would be no need for the sun, for the Lamb would be the lamp of the temple. 🙂

        The focus is always on the people of God, their sacramental action, and their mission.

        I also put focus on God, God’s sacramental action, and God’s mission. (Which, as today’s Gospel informs us, is our mission too!)

        a danger of confusing and setting up a “mixed” sacramental theology

        I must have stumbled across the one place where both/and is unorthodox!

        Practical – means more than convenient, I hope.

        Okay, that’s why I asked; you’ve clarified it. Thank you.

      12. BLS does have “rules” for a bishop to consider when placing the tabernacle, as Mr Aquila stated in America.

        Are we reading the same article? The article I read (linked to by Bill) is by Michael E. DeSanctis. I can’t find a mention of “Aquila” in the article or the comments.

        JP seems to have accepted this, or he would not have argued that the tabernacle at St John Neumann’s is not at the heart of the sanctuary.

        “Heart of the sanctuary” is DeSanctis’ term, not found in BLS. I don’t know how Michael would define it. I tend to think the altar should be at the “heart” of the sanctuary; whether that means that wherever the altar is, there is the heart… I doubt it. I think the “heart” of the sanctuary has something to do with the geography of the place… central axis and all that. But I’m not an architect.

        On another note, upon re-reading BLS, I see this in §22: “In building a house for the Church that is also the house of God on earth, all the expressions of Christ’s presence have prominence of place that reflects their proper nature. Among these, the eucharistic species is accorded supreme prominence.”

      13. Sorry about the mistake re Michael deSanctis.

        I suppose the point about “the heart of the sanctuary” is that there are different places in the sanctuary where the tabernacle can be placed, not whether we understand exactly what place is being described.

        And of course the presence in the Eucharistic species is preeminent. What we are discussing is the difference between the Eucharistic species present in the ritual enactment of the Paschal Mystery vs. the remanant of a “prior” ritual; these should not conflict, but they can eg if a priest in persona Christi capiti were to genuflect everytime he passed in front of the tabernacle.

        That is why BLS goes on to say (#46-7) that the primary role of a Church is to provide a suitable place for the celebration of the liturgical rites esp the Eucharist, and its role as a place for prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is an added concern, not primary.

        Thanks for the discussion. I learned a lot.

      14. Thanks, Jim, for a civil and edifying conversation. 🙂

        I just want to clarify why I quoted BLS §22: “[A]ll the expressions of Christ’s presence have prominence of place that reflects their proper nature. Among these, the eucharistic species is accorded supreme prominence.”

        of course the presence in the Eucharistic species is preeminent.

        It’s not just that the “presence in the Eucharistic species is preeminent” — BLS §22 says that earlier in words I have not included — but that the presence of Christ in the eucharistic species has “supreme prominence [of place]”. I interpret that to mean that both the altar and the tabernacle, as locations of the eucharistic species, should be prominently located. However, the bishops may be using “place” not in a spatial/geography sense, as in the expression “pride of place”. I don’t know.

      15. I think offering a separate place for the reserved Eucharist is meant to offer a more dignified place for the reserved species. I briefly alluded to this earlier, but having it behind the altar means putting it in a place where its own dignity is overshadowed by the celebration of the Sacrament. According the reserved Sacrament its due honor distracts, but if people are expected not to be distracted, not to pay attention, then it is not properly honored by its setting.

  14. Jim McKay :

    All three of you seem to have missed the point. Built of lLiving Stones, as you quoted, lays down these guidelines for the bishop: 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.
    These principles point away from placing the tabernacle “at the heart of the sanctuary,” though it may be elsewhere in the sanctuary, as you say. A tabernacle at the heart of the sanctuary probably distracts from the eucharistic action at the altar (and the Gospel proclamation at the ambo), and it appears not to be the custom in the area. That leaves the piety of the people as a possible reason. Is there a piety that prefers the reserved Eucharist over the living presence of Christ in the liturgy?

    Read the letter of the document, nothing else. “Probably distracts…” Pawh. Besides, how could a tabernacle “distract” any more than, say, a mural, a rich baldacchino, etc? This is silly.

    And yes, I and my piety absolutely prefer the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist over the ritual action of the liturgy itself. Wouldn’t a statement to the contrary border on being extremely dangerous? To prefer the ritual action over the Eucharist Itself? Those priorities seem a bit backwards.

    1. Cameron,

      The teachings of the Church, the traditions of the Church, and the legislation of the Church all prioritize the ritual action over the reserved Sacrament. This is basic sacramental theology.

      To cite just one example: the rubrics foresee a geneflection to the tabernacle (if its location calls for it) during the processional and recessional, but not during the celebration of Mass where the focus is on the altar table.

      Here’s why: the ritual action is the true actualization of the paschal mystery, it is the passion, death, and resurrection made truly (sacramentally) present, it is the Sacrifice of the Mass. The sacramental species consumed at Mass are the result of all this and have their meaning and significance within this. The reserved sacrament, while really and truly the Body of Christ, has its meaning only in relationship to the prior purpose of Real Presence which is consuming the species during the ritual action.
      Here’s the prioritization:
      1. Ritual action (Sacrifice of the Mass).
      2. Reception of Communion at Mass.
      3. Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament
      a. for reception outside Mass;
      b. for adoration.

      To make #3 ultimate, to make #1 a mere instrumentality so as to make #3 possible, is a distortion. It’s on the borderline of not being orthodox.

      And then recall Thomas Aquinas’s conviction that the unity of the church is the res tantum of the sacrament, i.e., more important than the res et sacramentum which is the Real Presence in the species.

      I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that serious issues of orthodoxy are at stake here.

      awr

      1. Thanks, Fr. Ruff – after a while, I just give up in terms of higher principles and the hierarchy of directives. Also, a very pronounced difference between seeing sacraments as “communal actions” vs. “objects that you receive”.

        Thanks, Jim – yes, thought the same thing – they missed the point.

      2. I do not disagree with the points made here but I can’t help but notice the irony of an appeal to authoritative and academic sources from one poster who, on another topic, suggests that his opposite is “drinking the hierarchy line” and may be “living in a ‘seminary bubble being taught by professors who have little to no pastoral experience”. It appears that the “hierarchy line” & “seminary bubble” are legitimate so long as one agrees with them.

      3. To cite just one example: the rubrics foresee a geneflection to the tabernacle (if its location calls for it) during the processional and recessional, but not during the celebration of Mass where the focus is on the altar table.

        Since 2002 only.

        The situation is sooo much more complicated than that and can’t be used as a proof text for anything.

        For a long time prior to the 1960’s, the Church dealt with this problem of separation of presences by not allowing them to be separated. It was required that the Eucharist be reserved in a fixed tabernacle on an altar where the Mass was celebrated, thus emphasizing the unity. In actu functionis, the minor ministers genflected to the altar as a symbol of Christ even when the Blessed Sacrament was not present, etc.

  15. The tabernacle in this church is placed on the shelf-table behind the altar.

    http://stbedementoroh.org/dnn/Portals/0/Bulletin/2011/14-1094-41B-09-04-11.pdf

    The area behind the tabernacle was originally intended for the choir, but has not been used for that. Recently it has been remodeled to be a devotional area.

    In comparison to most parishes, I think this is a good solution. When parishes place the tabernacle somewhere else than in the main worship place, they usually place it in a weekday worship area and retain all the problems of a double focus.

    An even better solution for this parish would be a dove-pyx that could be raised and lowered to the shelf-table. Right above the tabernacle is an open metal artwork featuring the Lamb of God.

    The acoustics of the church are good for singing a capella (probably all the bricks). I would like to hear how the choir sounds if they sang from the space designed for them.

    1. The baptismal font of the church is in a new large atrium gathering area. This picture is facing the door.
      http://stbedementoroh.org/dnn/Ministries/Formation/PreBaptism.aspx

      As you come in the door you focus on the baptismal font; as you proceed forward, the entrance to the nave is open so that you see the altar, close behind and slightly above it the tabernacle with the lamb of God artwork above it and the crucifix behind in the devotional area.

      All a much better spacial solution than I have seen in about 95% of churches done in recent decades.

  16. I normally like good contemporary architechure but I’m really not impressed with the layout and furnishings of this new cathedral, although I grant it may be a good space overall as some have commented. I can see a re-ordering again in the not too far distant future after a respectable waiting time. Personally, I would move the altar to the central location – doesn’t the stone circle paving make it the natural location and emphasis it’s importance? A hanging cross above the altar would also be possible – currently there appears a modern lighting fitting there (similar to the one hanging over my dining room table!) Where to put the ambo then? The only option I can see would be in the open space on the lower floor area in front of the altar – this would also allow for suitably formal gospel processions.

    Both altar and ambo fittings appear rather basic and lacking any design merit. Would have prefered a stone altar, especially for a cathedral. The cross behind the throne looks really insignificant – maybe it’s only meant to be a temporray solution? The panelling behind the throne looks like a conference room wall and is very dull in white – maybe an opportunity for a tapestry in the future?

    I don’t understand the dining chair type seating in front of the rows of benchs – it creates the impression of first and second class seating to me. Also the width of the congregational seating blocks appears rather narrow and segmented – I don’t get the sense that it would look like the ‘church gathered as one’ when in use, plus the seating looks far away from the sanctuary area with wide empty spaces in-between.

    I admit, it’s hard to get a sense of dimension, proportion and space from the webcam and website pictures – but I am rather underwhelmed! Again, I like contemporary architechture but I think the fittings and layout here are very disappointing.

  17. A question about the placement of the tabernacle: I recall someone – N. Mitchell? A. Kavanaugh? R. Taft? – saying to the effect that,

    the eucharist isn’t reserved so that it may be adored; it’s adored because it is reserved.

    Anyone know the source and the exact quote? Or perhaps I imagined it.

    1. As Dom Lambert Beauduin has expressed it, the eucharist was not reserved in order to be adored; rather, because it was reserved, it was adored (cf. Melanges liturgiques . . . de Dom L. Beauduin [Louvain, 1954] p. 265)

      This is from footnote 29 of the 1967 statement on the Eucharist by US Catholics and Lutherans on the USCCB website. I found it by googling “Eucharist adored reserved”, not because I knew anything about it.

      1. There’s a danger of falling into the genetic fallacy here. Clearly, in many cases today, the Eucharist is reserved in order for it to be adored. That this was not the original reason does not change that.

      2. Thank you, Jim. I hadn’t read the Lutheran-Catholic statement on the Eucharist. Amazing that it was written 45 years ago.

      3. Perhaps the way it is expressed in the instruction Eucharistae Sacramentum (1967), as quoted in Redemptionis Sacramentum, is more to your liking:

        The celebration of the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside the Mass. Furthermore the sacred species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass, above all the sick and those advanced in age, may be united by sacramental Communion to Christ and his Sacrifice which is offered in the Mass.

        (I am just being a librarian here, but this touches on issues raised earlier.)

      4. Thanks, Jim for your diligence in researching. It supports that fact that VII did reform this aspect of our eucharistic theology and liturgical practice. OTOH, the directives and impact on ritual directives, architectural decisions, etc. was very pastoral and allowed for an extended time period so that change was not abrupt.

        That being said, it did reform practices that, especially since Trent, had become misaligned with catholic tradition, history, and sacramental belief. Many abuses had been “enshrined” around the tabernacle and adoration. You will find liturgical experts talking about some of these as “accretions” and these were reformed.

        Actually, there is no “genetic” theory (egg or chicken came first?) – folks such as Jungmann clearly have shown that there was no “tabernacle” or eucharistic adoration for centuries. Clearly, there was an egg before the chicken. Reserved eucharist happened for very practical and mission reasons – to save and bring to sick, prisoners, etc. Early Christians would have no concept of “adoration”.

        The danger of the ROTR is that it skips over the VII theology and liturgical practice and attempts to maintain what the council had reformed and seen as an “accretion”. VII did not eliminate “adoration” but it did reframe it and tried to make it more consistent within sacramental and liturgical theology. (for example – adoration is not an “number eight” sacrament.)

        Finally, Jim’s points really say nothing about the “placement” but it clearly also does not support some of JP’s attempt to construct some type of reasoning that the tabernacle and altar need to be in some type of proximity so it all is connected.

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