Bishop Pascal Roland, bishop of the Diocese of Bellay-Ars in France, has ordered that the Blessed Sacrament be removed from all tabernacles in his diocese, and the tabernacle doors kept open to show that it is empty. After thieves desecrated ten churches in the diocese since October, stealing consecrated hosts from five of them, the bishop ordered that consecrated hosts be kept in a more secure location.
The Diocese of Bellay-Ars described the most recent thefts on its website:
Friday, February 6, 2015, the parishioners of Neuville-les-Dames , in the parish grouping of Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne, discovered that the church tabernacle Saint-Maurice was fractured, and the ciborium (cup that contains the hosts) it contained had been stolen. The same evening, the parishioners of Ambronay also noticed the theft of a ciborium at Notre Dame.
Saturday, February 7 at Vonnas was found stealing two chalices from the St. Martin Church. Sunday 8 February at Jujurieux (parish grouping of Pont d’Ain), the faithful have discovered that another ciborium was stolen in St. Stephen’s Church .
In these four cases, the consecrated hosts were not stolen but abandoned in place .
Finally, on Saturday 7 February, the pastor of Montluel discovered that the ciborium and the hosts of the Notre-Dame-des-Marais had been stolen.
Deacon Greg Kandra, on his blog The Deacon’s Bench, carried a translation of the bishop’s formal decree, which lists two exceptions: (1) the Blessed Sacrament may be returned to the tabernacle temporarily for adoration, if a sufficient number of faithful are present; and (2) the hosts may be stored in a “well-secured” metallic tabernacle with a resistant lock.
Which brings me to this story, which I’ve been meaning to share: the Exposition Tabernacle.
Our parish is a small community, and we haven’t a sufficient number of parishioners available to fill slots for Eucharistic Adoration around the clock. Regulations concerning exposition of the Blessed Sacrament are delineated in canon law and in a document published in The Rites vol. 1, entitled “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass.” Both stipulate that the Blessed Sacrament should not be exposed in a monstrance unless there is someone in prayer there in the chapel; so for our parish, with empty slots on the sign-up schedule, it was not possible to have Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis.
Until we had this:
Our pastor recently replaced the tabernacle in our parish chapel with an Exposition Tabernacle. Ideally suited for small parishes like ours, the Exposition Tabernacle has a glass window in the front. The tabernacle can be unlocked by an authorized person (the priest or deacon), and a consecrated host can be inserted behind the glass. Then, the tabernacle is locked. The gold doors can be opened by a layperson who stops in the chapel to pray, then closed again when the chapel is going to be unattended. The last person to leave the chapel closes the gold doors over the glass.
For our parish, the Exposition Tabernacle has proven to be a welcome addition–ensuring that canon law is respected, the Blessed Sacrament is protected, and the faithful who wish to pray before the Sacrament will not be disappointed.
Photo credit (tabernacle photos): Deacon Jerry Schiffer