Are our churches just museums?

I was forced to ask myself this question a couple of weeks ago.

  It was a Saturday morning; as usual every Saturday at the Cathedral we have an hours exposition of the Blessed Sacrament before the midday Mass. On this particular Saturday there were only a few parishioners scattered throughout the church. We sang the “O salutaris” as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the altar, and the church descended into meditative silence. 

Within a few minutes of the Blessed Sacrament being exposed, the door at the back of the church opened and a couple came in. They then proceeded to walk around the church taking pictures of the stained glass windows, statues of our Blessed Lady and the saints, and they even walked around behind the back of the altar to look at the choir stalls. They then left the church.  This happened at least another eight or nine times during the holy hour, couples, individuals and even small groups wandering around the church taking photos and looking at the marvellous artwork and statues.

It struck me that the church architecture and furnishings and all that interested the Saturday morning sightseers were created to point us towards God, towards Jesus. Yet not one of these people noticed Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. 

Now in a way it is understandable, when we look at the Blessed Sacrament, what do we see? A little round piece of wafer in a container. It would seem a lot less impressive than the surroundings in which it resides.  

But as Catholics we know what it is! it is Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, right there on the altar! Right there in front of us! It is incomprehensible, it defies the senses but that is what it truly is.

Without the Blessed Sacrament, without Jesus, nothing else in the church makes any sense whatsoever.  The church without the Blessed Sacrament may as well be a museum.

So what can we do as Catholics to stop our churches being nothing but museums?

I think for a start we should make the effort to spend some time with Our Lord during Holy Hours. Maybe if more of us spent time kneeling and adoring Our Lord during these times it would show that we are here for a specific purpose.  When the church is all but empty, the few parishioners that are in the pews could be mistaken for people in private prayer.  If the church had more people in it during exposition then there would be a sense of event, people coming into the church would ask “What are all these people doing kneeling and sitting in silence in the church for? Is something happening? What’s going on? What’s that big golden thing on the table surrounded by candles that they seem focused on?”

St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the Sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us”. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: By not only celebrating the Eucharist, but also by praying before It outside of Mass, we are enabled to make contact with the very wellsprings of Grace ..."

For myself the holy hour is a great time of peace and prayer.  The best way of getting to know someone is to spend time with them. This is what we are doing during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, spending time with Jesus. It’s like my spiritual batteries are recharged by our Lord.

So let’s spend some time with Jesus, let’s use our churches for the purpose for which they were built, to adore our Lord and God lest they become nothing more than museums.