Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thomas More College Installs New Altar, Places Tabernacle in the Centre and Offers Both Forms Ad Orientem

(Merrimack, New Hampshire)—Students of Thomas More College returned from their Christmas recess to an exciting surprise—a beautifully transformed chapel.

While the students were home with their families, Thomas More College’s staff and faculty joined together to install a new altar, polish and position the tabernacle in the center, unveil three new icons, buff pews, wax floors, and tastefully paint and frame the sanctuary space.

The new mahogany altar is placed to ensure that the priest be Ad Orientem during both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Mass. On the front is painted the traditional symbol of the chi rho, the first two Greek letters of ‘Christ’, emphasizing the symbolic representation of the altar as the body of Christ.

On the back wall hang four icons, painted by the College’s artist-in-residence, Professor David Clayton. Three of these icons were installed just this week: Our Lady, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Thomas More.

The icons of Our Lady and Saint John—the traditional figures shown at the cross—appear at the foot of the large hanging crucifix, even though it is suspended ten feet from the wall on which the icons hang. The icons are seemingly connected to the crucifix due to the complementary color schemes, matching borders, and careful positioning.

Interestingly, the unique placement of these icons also causes them to appear at the foot of the smaller crucifix, which hangs on the back wall for the priest to view during Mass.

“The icons were arranged in such a way as to draw the viewers’ attention to both the crucifixes and to the tabernacle,” Clayton noted. “Our Lady and St. John are looking at the tabernacle and their postures indicate they are paying homage to and adoring the Blessed Sacrament.”

The icon of Saint Michael the Archangel, unveiled last March, is now joined by a new icon of the College’s patron, Saint Thomas More. Both icons are five feet in height and two and a half feet width. They hang above the two smaller icons, while a fifth icon of the Sacred Heart, installed two years ago, hangs to the left above the bench where the priest sits during Mass.

Clayton said: “When we sing Vespers and Lauds, we always close by asking for the intercession of Saint Thomas More, Our Lady, Mother of Beauty, and a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After Compline, we say the Saint Michael prayer. With the recent additions, we can now turn, face forward, and look directly at the appropriate image for each of these prayers and, thus, predispose ourselves to grace.”

The space is bordered with Fleurs de Lis on a background of warm burgundy. The Fleur de Lis is a traditional symbol of both Our Lady and the Trinity. As a result, the space is marked apart from the rest of the room as being the sanctuary.

Most important, changes made to the College’s chapel now allow the tabernacle to be situated in the center of the altar.

Dr. Fahey, president of Thomas More College, remarked, “When the Holy Father met with leaders from Catholic Universities and Colleges in the United States, he reminded everyone that ‘First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.’   It seems to me essential that we place Our Lord visibly at the center—the center of the Chapel and the center of our entire educational endeavor.”

Reverend John Healey, longtime chaplain of Thomas More College, stated, “The great deal of work done recently in the Chapel signifies in the community a wonderful devotion and love for Christ for which I am truly grateful. Deo Gratias!”

Former Altar and Tabernacle Placement


New Arrangement



Fr. Healey celebrates Mass in the Ordinary Form