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Child Play and Mission Commitment: A Tale of Two Altars

Our special exhibit presents in the larger showcase a typical travelling altar in a case. Canon Law formerly required for any celebration of Holy Mass a consecrated altar containing a relic. In our travelling altar this relic is hidden under the stone which is part of the altar surface. A relic must have been consecrated by an ordained bishop.

The case also held the consecration charter and a document guaranteeing the authenticity of the relics.
"Today Rev. Dr. Johann Baptist Hoech, Titular Bishop of Miletpolis and Auxiliary Bishop of Regensburg consecrated this altar stone and enclosed the relics of the holy martyrs Justin and Venturina. Regensburg January 29, 1942".

Together with the accessories for the celebration of the Eucharist – a chalice and paten, storage bottles for wine and a cruet for water together with a cloth. We were not able to find out where and by whom this travelling altar had been used.

The small showcase exhibits the toy altar of Fr. Josef Schreck (1914-1994), a Pallottine Missionary who worked from 1940–1964 in Brazil and from 1964 until the end of his life in Japan. This toy altar had been crafted by master carpenter Josef Baumeister (1848-1929) for his grandson. We do not know the origin of the other altar vessels made from tin, the toy trunk and the small monstrance.

Both altars, the one for the travelling missionary and the other for the playing child require celebration "versus altare" meaning turned towards the altar and with his back to all who attend as was customary and prescribed before the Second Vatican Council.

If you ask among the priests of the St. Ottilien community, you will discover that quite a number of them played "Holy Mass" as children. Two siblings were enough, impersonating an altar boy and "the people".