Rorate Caeli

A post about something truly important:
A beautiful portable Altar for the Most Holy Sacrifice

After so many weeks of matters that will pass and will not last (merely "itch for novelties", cf. 2Tm iv, 3), something that joins all those things we love about Tradition, always ancient and new: simplicity, austerity, beauty, functionality, durability, and the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Reader Rick Murphey sends us the report:

Our FSSP Parish Pastor asked me to build him a portable altar, after he saw and blessed a “wayside shrine” I built for one of my relatives. He said he had been given an antique altar stone some years ago and he wanted to have a portable altar built that would hold the stone, and that he could use in his travels.

I ultimately came up with this model that has two drawers – that hold his complete Mass kit. The extending arms of the altar rest on the drawers as support when open and also act as protection of the altar stone when closed. The lid has a small “inlay” area into which his crucifix fits. When closed up, it is “carry-on size and weight” the dimensions being 22” (56 cm) x 14” (35.5 cm) x 9” (23 cm).

The wood used was “select grade” hemlock – a bit heavier than pine, but when fully loaded with the Mass kit it comes to 35 lbs (16 kg). It was a great honor to build this for him.


  1. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Caro NC,
    Scusa se te lo inserisco qui.
    Ma ho appena pubblicato questo articolo, partendo anche dal vostro.
    Sono molto turbata ed ero indecisa se scriverlo o meno. Ma ora è lì.
    Penso ci sia differenza tra "prudente attesa" e passare sotto silenzio cose che stridono col nostro sensus fidei e anche col sensus Ecclesiae.
    Speriamo di doverci ricredere...

  2. Beautiful. I can just see a TLM celebrated on this Altar, on the hood of a Humvee, with a bunch of Catholic soldiers standing around. No nonsense where the bullets are flying... I know.

  3. Oh, so beautiful!! How I would love to buy this for one of my sons, to be ordained in 2 yrs, God willing. How can I find out the price? Thank you and thank you for displaying this man's great artistry!!!

  4. Includes the altar stone too! Well done. Every priest in the battle zone or mission territory should have one.

  5. This is truly beautiful. How seldom are we exposed to artisan craft-work, and how few are those who now-a-days have the diligence required to obtain it! Blessed is the man who works with his hands, in the manner of St. Joseph!

  6. Just don't drink the hemlock. It (the altar) is beautiful and useful, though.

  7. Very well done. I build studio made furniture at the work bench (as we say) for a living. Recently I have taken on a commission building two side alters, a pulpit and a rood screen for a NO church gutted in the 80's and now trying to return to tradition. Building such things gives a satisfaction not found in the designing and building of pieces for secular use.


  8. NIANTIC7:13 PM

    Absolutely beautiful.

  9. Susan7:37 PM

    Clever as well as exquisite. The Carpenter of all carpenters must be smiling.

  10. That is absolutely stunning. Well done sir! May you have many commissions, for the glory of God and for your material and spiritual benefit.

  11. When I first saw the link and clicked through I expected to be reading about an antique. I should have been happy to do so, but I am more pleased still to read about a contemporary artefact of such beauty and utility, newly crafted for the service of God.

  12. Very beautiful! Very fine craftsmanship!

  13. If you really think of it even portable altars become exquisite items when they are designed and constructed with the Divine in mind.

    When I see the (dining?) tables (workbenches?) of the N.O. mass it just breaks the heart.

  14. Benedict Carter9:25 PM

    Brought to mind the "rock altars" of the Catholic Irish in Penal times.

    Who is the carpenter again? Fine work!

  15. It may not hurt for us to invest in one now. Beautiful!

  16. Ora et Labora9:55 PM

    Simply beautiful!!!

    Something tells me we'll be needing them in the near future.

    Mary Help of Christians pray for us!!!

  17. It would be useful is Mr. Murphey could provide the plan to make the altar, for example by making it available on

  18. How can I find out the price?

    There's one listed on ebay presently for $950, but if you e-mail Mr. Murphy (address on his website linked in the post), he may be able to quote you a different price for sale directly (since it would avoid the ebay commission).

    It would be useful is Mr. Murphey could provide the plan to make the altar

    Well that would interfere somewhat with the man's attempt to make a living through his work, now wouldn't it?

  19. Well that would interfere somewhat with the man's attempt to make a living through his work, now wouldn't it?

    Not necessarily. It takes more than a recipe to make a sumptuous dish. Otherwise Julia Child would have driven all French restaurants out of business.

  20. Prof. Basto3:31 AM

    Fine craftsmanship. Congratulations.

  21. select grade I believe it the highest quality there is.

  22. Absolutely beautiful and crafty. Such ingenuity in functionality and compactness. Insofar as "Mr. Murphy providing his plans," I say no. It should be considered proprietary to his trade, a corporate or trade secret. If someone wants to make a portable altar such as his, let the person think it up and make his own or try to "improve" on it. It would be like Coca-Cola or Kentucky Fried Chicken releasing their ingredients just because.

    You keep your plans confidential, Murphy. Oh, I hope Father doesn't plan on flying anywhere with it. It would probably be the last time it would look like that. We all know luggage doesn't necessarily come out looking the same way when it was checked in.

  23. Is it possible to order one,and if so the cost?

  24. Henry2:01 PM

    When closed up, it is “carry-on size and weight”

    So, evidently, it's designed to be carried on and treated with TLC by the airline passenger himself, not to be checked in and shipped as luggage.

  25. A Mom2:13 PM

    Beautiful! So glad you shared this with us.

  26. I would like to thank all for your comments. They are so encouraging. This was such a honor to build and gift to our priest. I get emotional every time I think about what it means,that what I have given will be part of every mass he says on it. The honor be to God, as he has loaned me the talent. I also must thank my wonderful wife for without her encouragement and help it would never have been done. Bless you all, Glory be to God.
    Rick Murphey

  27. Benedict Carter5:21 PM

    Dear Mr Murphey

    Good for you! Lovely post.

  28. "Not necessarily. It takes more than a recipe to make a sumptuous dish. Otherwise Julia Child would have driven all French restaurants out of business."


    Still, I think that people who want one should contact Mr. Murphy and get a quote on having one built. As for other craftsmen, perhaps Mr. Murphy would be willing to license the plans? That would be a good compromise that would afford him due recompense for his work in designing it.

  29. Beautiful...and better than a Greek corporal!

  30. Father, it's Austrian corporals we need to worry about.

  31. Susan7:15 PM

    I hate to think of this beautiful work of art getting banged up in travel, which could happen even with care. Perhaps a fitted leather case with flaps across the top that would snap together, leaving an opening for the handle?

  32. Patti Day8:34 PM

    It's so beautiful, and I love that you honor St. Joseph as his apprentice.

  33. Fr. joe Colletti1:05 AM

    Love it; where can I get one?

  34. I will try and answer some of the questions sent to me. First, to order one contact me directly at second, I have no plans or drawings at this point. I looked up the carry on size for the airlines for the outside dimensions and built inwards. When I was done I counted and their are about 45 pieces of wood in in this little puzzle. Third, as for the price I am asking 900 dollars to those that can afford it. For those that can not we are trying to make arrangements because it is my mission that no priest will be denied one because they can not afford it, the cause is much to important to me. Fourth, I build them in my little twenty foot by twenty foot wood shop heated by a wood stove here in the woods of northern Idaho.


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