Justin Cardinal Rigali, when first installed in Philadephia, wrote a pastoral letter asking pastors to put the Tabernacle back in the center of the Church behind the main altar.
On March 4, the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, the Cardinal celebrated Mass with the Tabernacle behind him (seen in the photo above, which contrasts the smaller photo above it showing how empty the background looked before the restoration). This is so appropriate to the discussion on Sacramentum Caritatis.
Here is an from the Catholic Standard. I am pasting in the entire article out of fear that it will disappear as some of the Catholic papers do to conserve space. The photo is also from the article.
Keeping Christ in the center of our lives and our churchesby Lou Baldwin and Michelle Johnson
In his first pastoral letter as Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali asked pastors to consider placing the tabernacle in the center of the church behind the main altar if it was not already there and if individual circumstances made such a move feasible.
On Sunday, March 4 at the Cathedral of S.S. Peter and Paul, the Cardinal led the way and made the mother church of the Archdiocese an example to all when he blessed a brand new tabernacle which has been relocated from a side altar to the center of the Cathedral’s sanctuary where it is visible by all.
The tabernacle has been placed on a ledge which is part of a luminous new reredos, a freestanding “screen” erected a few feet behind the main altar. Amazingly, it looks for all the world as if it has been there ever since the altar itself was installed 50 years ago.
“Cardinal Rigali has been telling everyone they should keep Christ in the center of their lives, and what better way to do that than to keep Him in the center of our churches also,” said Louis DiCocco, president of The St. Jude Shop, which was responsible for the new tabernacle, reredos and matching candlesticks.
The Cardinal was clearly moved by the event. In his homily, he told the Cathedral’s parishioners, “Our hearts are filled with joy to celebrate this great event, and once again in a very special way to express our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. ...[W]e honor the presence of Christ truly and substantially in the Eucharist which we have enthroned in this beautiful new tabernacle that expresses our holy Catholic faith.”
The whole setting is breathtakingly beautiful. The reredos, executed in marble, exactly matches the half-century old altar. That’s because it was executed in Pietrasanta, in the Tuscany region of Italy, with marble obtained from a quarry in the same area as the original altar marble, and a perfect match was found.
Design elements include pilasters which mirror similar Corinthian pilasters and capitals on the altar. Rising above the tabernacle is a niche with an interior facing of white gold and gold tiles, a fitting backdrop for a gold crucifix with an ivory corpus.
The large tabernacle is adorned with gold pilasters and dome, which, similar to the repository of the holy oils in the Cathedral’s shrine to the priesthood, reflects the architecture of the 19th century cathedral. Crafted in Spain, “it is brass, hand gold-plated, one of a kind,” DiCocco said.
Unique features of the highly polished tabernacle are silver medallions on the door and on the inner rear wall of the tabernacle. Both medallions were crafted from designs chosen by the Cardinal.
The exterior medallion depicts Christ as the Lamb of God, while the interior image depicts the risen Christ, modeled after a painting which hangs in the the Pope’s study in the Vatican.
The proof of a good restoration and addition is how seamlessly it fits the existing décor.
“It really looks like it has always been there,” said Msgr. Michael T. McCulken, the Cathedral rector. “The reredos and restoring the tabernacle to the center behind the altar are absolutely beautiful. This will hopefully allow all of us to grow in our love for Jesus and in our devotion to the Eucharist through the beauty that is present there.”
“It was great working with [the Cardinal] on this,” DiCocco said. “He has very good taste and very good art style. I guess all of those years working in Rome gave him that.”
Since coming to the Archdiocese on Oct. 7, 2003, the Cardinal has asked that devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist be a priority for his priests and that priests foster this devotion in the laity. He has encouraged participation in Forty Hours Devotion, Eucharistic Adoration (especially Holy Hours for an increase of vocations to the priesthood), the regular celebration of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the faithful use of the Sacrament of Penance for the worthy reception of Communion, as well as pesonal and liturgical prayer.
“It is my hope that all the works of the Archdiocese and the lives of all our people will be vivified by a new wave of Eucharistic devotion solidly rooted in the sacred word of God and expressed in personal and liturgical prayer,” the Cardinal said in his 2004 pastoral letter. “We look forward to the renewal of a sense of reverence and awe for Christ’s gift of His Body and Blood, to be expressed in appropriate times of silence in our churches, in our genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament and in all the care that sourrounds the celebration of the liturgy.”
Pieces of art that lift the mind and heart can increase reverence and awe and help foster Eucharistic devotion.
As the Cardinal said in his 2004 pastoral letter: “We proclaim the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. ... We ... acknowledge that the Eucharist, given to us at Mass, is also to be adored in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in our tabernacles. Adoration ... prepares us spiritually to come back and share again in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. ... I ask the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia to do everything possible to promote and increase Eucharistic Adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo parish and a freelance writer. Michelle Laque Johnson is Editor-in-Chief of The CS&T.
Hat-tip to the New Liturgical Movement, which is also providing some good coverage of Sacramentum Caritatis and continuing discussion of the anticipated motu proprio on the Tridentine.