Our abbey church has a Tabernacle Shrine that we have created and added onto at various times over the years. From the time of the church's completion in 1967, we had a simple tabernacle designed by our architect, George Nakashima, resting in a niche in the north wall of the church.
In the mid-1980's a cabinet-like furnishing was built of african hardwood and placed around the tabernacle. This added additional visual beauty to the reserved Blessed Sacrament. The cabinet with tabernacle was moved to a central position behind the altar the mid-1990's. The panelled backdrop was added afterwards. The current images of the saints on the panels were done by our Br. Francis Martinez.
Shrine Central Panels
Below the niche containing the Nakashima Tabernacle is a double-panelled representation of a large oval table. There are several items on the table. There is a menorah with seven lighted candles, calling to mind the Passover Seder Meal. There is also a goblet, representing the cup used at the Last Supper. There are also two baskets, one containing two fish, the other containing five loaves. These two baskets call to mind the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish by Jesus. Along with the goblet, they are also a visual metaphor for the Eucharist. Altogether, the table, its contents and the people sitting around it represent the Communion of Saints.
At the head of the table are seated Mary and Joseph. They are flanked by the twelve Apostles. From left to right on the top panel, we find Matthias holding a palm branch, James, Thomas, Mark, James, John holding a scroll, and Peter, wearing a stole and holding a key. Then there are the representations of Mary and Joseph. To Joseph's left (the viewer's right), are Paul with four scrolls, Andrew holding a fish, Matthew, writing on a tablet, Bartholomew with a palm branch, and Philip holding a cross.
On the bottom panel, there are an additional fifteen saints. From left to right across the bottom of the panel, they are Saints Mary Magdalen, Placidus, Maurus, Theresa of Lisieux, Frances Cabrini, Pio of Pietrelcina, Pachomius, Antony of Egypt, Basil the Great, Theresa of Avila, Rosa de Lima, Elizabeth Anne Seton, Aelred of Rievaulx, Martin of Tours and Gregory the Great.
The Nakashima Tabernacle contains three objects. There is a small monstrance that we use for daily Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. There is also the Lunette from our large monstrance, for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday evenings. Finally there is a silver ciborium for extra consecrated Hosts.
Above the Nakashima Tabernacle and in the center of the shrine is a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. To the left is Moses, dressed in traditional rabbinical garb. He is holding two stone tablets inscribed with the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments). The Tablets represents the Law. To the right is Elijah the Prophet, holding three scrolls. These scrolls represent the Prophets.
Together, Moses and Elijah call to mind the Transfiguration, at which they were present, according to the Gospel accounts.
Above the image of Moses are six small representations of saints that are important to the countries and cultures some of our brothers come from. The six saints are, from left to right, St. Martin de Porres, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Andrew Kim, St. Oliver Plunkett, St. Gonzalo Garcia, and St. Felipe de Jesus.
Above the image of Elijah are another six representations of saints and blesseds also from countries and cultures represented by our brothers. From left to right are Bl. John XXIII, Bl. Theresa of Calcutta, St. Andrew Dung Lac, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, St. Charles Lwanga and St. Jean de Brebeuf.
The Tabernacle Shrine itself contains several more sacred images. These are found inside the doors and underneath the niche for the tabernacle itself.
On the top left is the Archangel Gabriel. He is holding a spear in one hand and under his other hand is a scroll with "Ave Maria" written on it.
Under that image is our Holy Father Saint Benedict. He is in habit and is sitting at an ornate table. On the table is a plate of bread and another of cheese. There is also a small knife. St. Benedict is writing his Rule, and the opening three words are seen in Latin: "Obsculta o fili" (Listen, my son). Through the window one can see our own abbey church. A few monks are seen processing toward our church.
Beneath that is an image of Blessed Kateri Tekakwita. She is holding a cross in one hand. The Chama River is seen behind her, as are some of the cliffs behind the monastery buildings. The rock formation known as "Owl Rock" is also seen in profile. In the foreground is an eagle perched on the branch of a tree.
On the top right is a representation of St. Michael the Archangel, with shield and flaming sword.
The middle panel features St. Scholastica, sitting and praying at an ornate table. The table is the mirror image of the one St. Benedict is writing on. On the table is a dove, a glass of wine, a pitcher of wine and a plate of bread. In the background is the church tower of the Monastery of St. Scholastica in Subiaco, Italy.
The bottom right panel features St. Francis of Assisi, praying with his eyes toward heaven. In the foreground is an open book, a skull and a wolf. In the background is the Cathedral Church of St. Francis in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In these visual representations, Blessed Kateri along with Sts. Benedict, Scholastica and Francis of Assisi, are placed in a New Mexico and Christ in the Desert Monastery context, to draw them closer to our monastic community in its daily prayer.