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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Where's our altar stone?


When I was a little girl, sister explained how altars have altar stones - and how those altar stones have relics. And how when the priest kissed the altar, he was kissing the area just over the altar stone. Another reinforcement for the conscept of "the communion of saints." I was always very impressed by this, and in my days of teaching CCD (catechetical instruction, for you folks outside the US) I always made it a point to show the children the altar stone, when I gave a lesson on all the objects in the church and what the priest wears to Mass, etc.


About 15 years ago, our parish underwent needed structural repairs (in our case to make it MUCH more sound in event of an earthquake. Unfortunately, along with ANY renovation, comes the wreckovation gangstas from the diocese. Overall, we did pretty well in the processs, people literally rising up to tell Fr. Muckety-Muck (from the diocesan office) and his Protestant hired henchwoman "consultant" to take a flying leap off a short pier. However, not to make "too many waves" and get his head cut off, the then pastor felt compelled to install a newer altar, one of those square hunks of "blah." NO ALTAR STONE. The old altar was put in storage, AND eventually "restored" although not IN the church. Well, with this "Restoration" I notice the Altar Stone is GONE. I notice a new "top" to the altar. Is the stone buried under that new top? The present pastor isn't the sort you'd ask about that kind of thing. But DAMMIT, what happened to it?


Where did people get the idea that simply because you want to be able to understand the Mass instantaneously, and see what the priest is doing, then *obviously* you want Kumbaya second rate CRAP? When churches were being built left and right, and wreckovated NO ONE said: We want crappy wooden bowls, damn terry cloth hand towels instead of proper finger towels, get rid of patens, altar rails, and take out glorious sanctuary lamps, bells (some places don't have them at all), we want lame-ass songs, put in abstract art stations, etc.


How to remedy this?


First, kill all the hippies. Wait. No. Too extreme. And if you kill them you take the chance of not feeling sorry for the sin. So. Perhaps we can have a death watch on diocesan hippies? You know how it's kind of sad when the last survivor of a war passes, all that living history goes. Maybe we can make a map, and as each diocese's hippies are all gone, we can gradually color the diocese gold. Sort of like the Hoover Institute keeps a watch on how free societies are politically.


Honestly, I feel like taking a hostage until that stone is returned to its rightful place. ON THE ALTAR. IN CHURCH.

13 comments:

Angela M. said...

Oh, Gem! YOU KILL me! Hippie death watch!!! LOL!!!! I.LOve.This.Post.!

Adoro said...

I think you're one of my heroes.

It must also be a day for liturgical issues...

gemoftheocean said...

Believe me, this post was germinating a long time. Serously, overall we did well chasing the wreckovaters out. Frankly, it was one of my proudest moments as a parishioner. but virtually NO parish was/is completely unscathed.

mel said...

hehehe....

Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Killing all the hippies is NOT a bad thing. What you really need is a nice iconostasis.

gemoftheocean said...

We'll have to save one or two of them for a zoo, Fr. Eric.

We can dress it in tie-dye, and feed it granola and put sandals on it.

We can warn children to stay FAR back if they reach behind their butts.

Rubricarius said...

Gem, the photo for this post is what is, technically, called a portable altar. This is like a mini-altar big enought for a chalice and paten and contains its own relics - you can see a little rectangular patch at the front which is the 'lid' above the relics.

In many churches these portable altars were fitted into either a stone or wooden structure and that became what was termed a 'fixed altar'.

If a church was free of mortgage or other debt it could be consecrated. The old rite of consecration of a church included the consecration of an altar. In that rite relics were deposited in a cavity within the altar table, then covered by a lid, or in the middle of the altar and a whole slab of stone then being put on top. A consecrated altar had five crosses engraved at the corners and centre (where Chrism is used to anoint it during the rite).

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks for the comment, Rubricarius. The photo was from on line. Our altar stone was of the old variety - relics in marble. The stone itself was a foot square IIRC, with crosses. We had a wooden altar, and the altar stone was a little over an inch thick, it was set in the altar, and was visible when you lifted the altar cloths. It bothers me a lot that I don't know what happened to it. I wonder if such information would be held in the diocesan archives. You don't just "get rid" of a thing like that - also I know that when I was a teen there was a very beautiful monstrance - the ladies of the parish had donated some precious jewels that were inlayed in it. Three pastors ago this became somehow taken out of service, never to be seen again. And we have no idea what became of it. The next pastor looked for it in all possible places, but it wasn't found. Stolen, sold, we have no idea, and I know it burned a lot of the older women, many now deceased.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I think they're now buried under the altar :(

gemoftheocean said...

Joe, I don't think so, when we renovated the floor was dug up, and this was after they went missing.... but who knows, perhaps Jimmy Hoffa has them.

Dino said...

Would like to claim credit, but won't, for the disappearance of fancy, colorful architect's drawings of how our parish church would look with all the pricy "improvement".
My letter to the pastor asked if it was appropriate to raise huge piles of money to build a separate structure outside for the tabernacle, then to move the large, attractive altar to the far edge of the sanctuary.
Th letter suggested that it would cost far less to purchase a copy of the GIRM, some vestments for the priests in this working middle-class parish to wear over their albs for Mass, and maybe even a real chalice, instead of plain wine glasses.
So far, no wreckovators, but we do have an improved sound system, vestments and a chalice.

gemoftheocean said...

Dino you rock! Gather the pitchforks and lighted torches and keep those b******* at bay. You can do it!!!

Mike said...

I feel lucky that as an altar boy of 12, I caught the tail-end of serving at the old Tridentine Mass with full rubrics and Latin in a beautiful Gothic-Romanesque Roman Catholic Church. At 17 I caught wind that the church interior was being renovated; altars were comming down. Went to pastor to see if this was true; said yes; he was close to retirement;seemed not too concerned; referred me to the ass pastor, I mean ass't pastor, who was a hippie; he was absolutely full of glee the altars were comming down; he had only been there a year unlike me who had grown up at the parish. There was to be no looking back. I was at the church on day they began destruction. A crew of burly men began first on the main altar like an ant colony all over it, cutting, bashing, knocking down, shouting "timber". Ass pastor was all smiles. When I got there all the statues and tabernacle were gone. The ALTAR STONE, who knows? May have been put in the new "table altar" (and I do mean just a table). "Fortunate" was I to be there at the right time as they knocked out the three full color hand carved plaques from Italy @1881;the smiling ass't pastor asked me if I would like them but not to tell anyone I had them. Being a dumbfounded 17 year old I accepted them. It was numbing as truck load after truck load of broken pieces of the 40 foot high, massive white and gold altar of my youth was banished to the landfill for a disrespectfull burial. Truthfully I have never gotten over this wanton destruction of this beautiful historical church. We met for Mass for 3 months at the public high school auditoriam. When we returned to the "new" church it was sad! Fifty soaring feet of plain yellow walls, a tiny brown table altar (the word "altar" is undeserving) and HUGE bland cross,His face seems to be suggesting the same as we were thinking: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they have done!"As one former parishioner said, it was like trying to praise God in a huge yellow shower stall. Pass the soap, not the basket.Amen to that! Soon my job took me to other cities in Ohio where the beautiful churches were still intact or even tastefully updated keeping the old along with the new. Recently I attended an open house at the Pontifical College Josephinum. It's a huge gothic seminary, unfortunately the same wholesale modernization took place in main naive in 1970's. It is extremely sad and ugly. After experiencing the beauty of intial part of tour you could sense a let-down in the crowd as we walked into the main church; an even bigger shower stall with plain grey-whitewashed walls, altars gone, you searched for the tabernaclette; a few folding chairs scattered about. I had seen pictures of what a large gorgeous church it once was. Even the young seminarians explained their shamefulness of the stark reality that we witnessed. But there is hope! They explained unofficially, the Vatican II concept of a "less is better" atmosphere for praising God was most likely a huge mistake. They are raising funds to restore main church naive and sanctuary back to its former glory! I see other parish churches doing the same. In this physical realm we humans are presently experiencing, the Church feels it is our connection to God, but the church has to remind itself, they are also a "business" and if they want to retain their "customers" they need to "sell" their "merchandise" in an appealing "store"! I myself no longer need a store to do my business with God but occassionally I like to go shopping. Ii's interesting Pope Benedict is opening the pages of history, allowing a throw-back to the solemn beautifull Tridentine Mass and Latin is enjoying renewed interest. It is especially interesting that many young people are intrigued by it all.I compare the "New Order" of Mass to the "New Coke" of colas. New Coke eventually went away. Thanks for allowing me to vent in print after all these years.

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