One of our daughters called me with concern and said altars and other sacred objects were being sold in quantity on ebay.com. I searched ebay using the word "altar" and found a lot of pagan altars (which was scary enough), but I also found a lot of old Church sacred objects for sale. I guess when churches are closed, the scavengers come in to take the good pieces for sale.
Jason's Church Salvage in New Jersey had this beautiful altar, described as "A GREAT CARRERA MARBLE ALTAR. TURN OF THE CENTURY OLD." Jason has lots more at his site--a monstrance, stained glass windows, candelabras, statues, processional crucifix, bronze church altar gates, etc. Most objects are offered at prices in the thousands of dollars.
Another ebay seller is Catholic Heritage that seems to specialize in small artifacts for the Tridentine Mass, including old altar cards and patterns to make a biretta and alb.
Westin Works also sells Catholic religious artifacts such as Bishops pectoral crosses, holy water fonts, icons, rosaries, and a pyx.
The view of religious offerings on ebay.com is not kind to the record of the Catholic Church during the past 40 years. I feel like 'weeping and gnashing my teeth' in a combination of sorrow, anger, and frustration.
The future financial condition of the American Church seems even bleaker than the present because older Catholics, who are currently the largest givers in the Church, are fast approaching death and their replacements are not nearly so generous. Yet this is the only time they will be given to preserve the most important and beautiful religious artifacts that are currently being sold on the web.
Yet which Bishop in the American Church has the foresight and dedication to preserve sacred objects rather than sell them? Or why doesn't the National Council of Catholic Bishops establish a (Vatican-like) museum with the best and most important pieces preserved for history under the name of the Catholic Church? The fees from such a museum would at least keep the operation going.
Frankly, the best option is for current churches to purchase many of these artifacts and USE THEM in sacred service to God. That is what is being done by churches dedicated to the preservation of the old Latin Mass. Fortunately, some special people in our area have acquired a beautiful old marble altar and are installing it in Old St. Patrick's Church, now being renovated in downtown Kansas City. If you're passing through KC, it's only a couple of blocks off I-70 and I-35.
Postscript--January 12, 2007: Coincidentally, the Cornell Society for a Good Time posted a similar column the day before mine and the writer describes meeting 'Jason' of Jason's Church Salvage.
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