I stumbled on this story late today: an account of a gorgeous, hand-made portable altar from a place called St. Joseph’s Apprentice.
I visited the website, where the craftsman behind these, Rick Murphey, writes:
If God came down and told us what our mission in life was to be, we would do it, and find great happiness in doing it. Although it was not a bolt of lightning but rather a very subtle nudge after acquiring a lifetime of experience that would lead to the ability to design and build these altars, this I believe is my mission in life:
“To build Altars for our Lord so that his priests may use them for their mission in life”
With my wonderful wife at my side managing the business end, up here, deep in the woods of northern Idaho along a beautiful creek, we set up shop. Heated with a wood stove, and surrounded by our dogs, we have created a space and atmosphere to get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, and we have found happiness. Over the years we have built a path along the creek that leads up to a large rock grotto where we go each day to pray.
He’s also created some remarkable missal stands, crucifixes and carvings. I’m not sure just how “portable” these are—they look pretty hefty—but he does make one he describes as suitable for backpacking.
Most priests I know will make do with whatever flat surface they can find when they travel—a desk top, a dresser, a folding table or bench—and won’t go to this much trouble.
But you have to agree: these are exceptional.
Prices for the altars range from $450 to about $3000. Looking for a one-of-a-kind ordination or anniversary gift? Check out the full range of altars and accessories here.
UPDATE: A priest friend sent me this image of another “portable altar.” From Mass at a shelter with a group of Boy Scouts. As he wrote: “Backpacking and Boy Scouting priests will celebrate Mass almost anywhere: on picnic and unheated dining hall tables, shelter floors, Coleman stoves, rocks (very suitable!), tarps on the ground–even, on one occasion, a trash receptacle turned on its side (because the Scouts forgot to bring up the requested table–so much for ‘be prepared’). In Scout camps with basic Mass equipment toted in a gym bag; in the woods, only the essentials.”