The Archdiocese of Birmingham - The Parish of the Immaculate Conception

Where the action happens - the Sanctuary.

This is the stage on which the entire drama, apart from the processions at the beginning and end and the procession with the gifts that is the Mass unfolds. It is the focus of the majority of the liturgical action in the life of the Church.

The area should be clearly marked out as being different from the rest of the church. Usually this is done by steps or by changing the way in which it is decorated. It should be arranged so that the people in the church can see what is happening and take active part in the various liturgies that are celebrated.

This ‘difference’ should also come across in the way that the people who come onto the sanctuary – priest, deacon, altar servers, extraordinary ministers, readers, etc. behave while they are there. This is done by not doing anything that may be distracting, by being attentive and alert to what is going on around you. This in turn comes from knowing and understanding and developing a reverence for what is going on around you so that you feel ‘at home’ with Catholic worship. Refer back to the beginning of this handbook and the ‘How to do the Basics’ section. The ceremonial actions that you carry out on the sanctuary should, through practice and repetition, become part of you and be as natural to you as breathing. God is beautiful and He deserves beauty. Good ceremonial is a skill that is learnt like any other.

The Sanctuary is the one part of the church that has had the greatest change. The black and white picture shows the Sanctuary as it was when the church was opened in 1963.