In recent years, many parishes throughout the Archdiocese have instituted regularly scheduled periods of extended or perpetual adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. Many pastors have noted that it can sometimes be difficult to maintain an adequate number of committed adorers throughout the year. This can present a challenge, as liturgical law states that the exposed Blessed Sacrament must never be left alone, both out of reverence for the Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and for reasons of safety and security. It can also happen that, from time to time, an adorer may not be able to be present for his or her scheduled time due to illness or some other emergency. When a substitute cannot be found at the last minute, it may become necessary to repose the Blessed Sacrament during scheduled times of adoration.
Recently, some parishes have contacted the Liturgy Office to ask about the possibility of installing a glass window in the tabernacle so that the Blessed Sacrament can be more easily exposed and reposed by opening and closing a tabernacle’s window. Some liturgical goods suppliers, in fact, carry tabernacles already manufactured with this feature.
Although these kinds of tabernacles are indeed available for purchase, they are not approved for liturgical use. In its 2004 document, “31 Questions on Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament,” the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Liturgy addressed this question in the following way:
Couldn’t the Eucharist be exposed always by building tabernacles of glass or tabernacles with small windows to see inside? Answer: No. ‘The holy Eucharist is to be reserved in a solid tabernacle. It must be opaque and unbreakable.
The USCCB’s response follows the rule established in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that a tabernacle must always be “irremovable, be made of solid and inviolable material that is not transparent, and be locked in such a way that the danger of profanation is prevented to the greatest extent possible” (314).
In 2006, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments answered a related question concerning the use of doors or drapes to separate the exposed Blessed Sacrament from a chapel for short periods of time when no one will be present. The Congregation indicated that this practice also does not satisfy the requirement to repose the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle under lock and key.
Bearing these principles in mind, parishes that wish to institute extended or perpetual Eucharistic adoration should first ensure that there is sufficient interest in the community to maintain the necessary number of volunteers needed for lengthier periods of adoration. Parishes may wish to bring this question up for discussion at parish council meetings or even take a survey of the parish as part of its planning process.