by Susan Steadman, Artist & Friend of SJV
Taken from the Hebrew word for “dwelling,” the tabernacle is the place of reservation for the Eucharist – the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is in Our Lord’s true presence that a man discerning priesthood can most clearly hear the voice of Jesus say, “Do not be afraid. Come and follow me.”
The door of the tabernacle was carved by Paul Sirba, nephew of the late Bishop Paul Sirba, who as an alumnus of SJV served as a spiritual director and sent men here as Bishop of the Diocese of Duluth.
“How is it that the God of Abraham and Isaac should ordain that I, so unworthy, should fashion the very door of His inner seminary chamber? Yet how much more the blessed hands of the priest that shall frequent it? What a complete honor to contribute to such a focal point for the cause of our future priests. I am ever amazed at God’s hand in it all,” Paul said.
The pelican feeding her chicks is an ancient Christian symbol of the Eucharist. When food is in short supply, the pelican pierces its breast with its sharp, pointed beak as the side of Jesus is pierced by a sharp, pointed lance. Blood flows from the pelican’s breast, and blood flows from Jesus’ side. The mother’s blood is drink for her chicks, and the blood of Jesus is “true drink.” The mother gives her life that her chicks might live, and Jesus lays down his life that we might live. The mother’s blood saves the lives of the chicks as the blood of Jesus is salvation and eternal life to those who receive it. Because of these striking similarities, the mother pelican and her chicks have come to represent the Eucharist as well as redemption and salvation.