This week I, along with some very generous volunteers, have been putting in a few hours of manual labour, to create a chapel at our school. Our school's parish church is about 5km away and it has always been a dream of mine to have a little chapel on site. A place where our community can reflect and pray and a space for us to gather as a staff each week for prayer and for classes to use for prayer.
We have been incredibly lucky to have had some very special taonga gifted to us over the past year as word got around that I was determined to create our own sacred space. We have an altar (complete with consecrated altar stone), a hand-carved tabernacle and a beautiful statue of Mary all given to us by the Mercy Sisters. We have a child sized lecturn and a presider's chair which have both come from our parish priest. We also have a stunning portrait of Catherine McAuley given to us by the local Catholic High School and a crucifix which came from a small local church that has since been sold. I've also been given a full set of Stations of the Cross. After humbly accepting all of these beautiful gifts it is exciting to finally have a special space to place them.
Today I've been googling some of the "rules" associated with chapels – things like what exactly can be called a chapel, whether it has to be blessed by the Bishop, where the blessed sacrament can be kept, why a wooden altar needs an altar stone. It's all very interesting stuff.
One interesting thing I discovered is that all permanent altars need to have a stone (preferably marble) top and need to hold within that stone the relic of a saint, preferably a martyr, and the relic has to be recognisable as being part of a human body. There must be a lot of altars in NZ that have relics inside them and yet I don't know of any. My dad says he thinks he remembers when the altar of our childhood church was smashed up (yes terrible I know, but it was the height of the liberal 80s) that there was some soil from the catechums inside it. He doesn't know what happened to it. Doesn't bear thinking about now.
Do any of you know who's relics are inside your church's altars?