The Perfect Gift for a Priest

The Perfect Gift for a Priest

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by Angie Gadacz

Rick Murphey lives just outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, tucked away in the woods with a small herd of sheep, a few chickens and other critters. Rick grew up working in his father’s construction business in Carson City, Nevada, learning cabinet-making skills. Over the years, he came to appreciate the character and beauty of the different grains, blemishes and knots of wood.

Today, Rick is a man with a unique vision. In the long cold winter months from November to May, Rick can be found in in his woodshop, crafting this vision into reality.

“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom, “ he says. “These shrines promoted holy adoration and property protection.” However charming this idea, Rick found little interest beyond a few relatives.

FSSP priests Father Gordon (left) and Fr Kemna (with glasses) admire Rick’s altar in his Idaho home.

“Originally, I set out to create a series of wayside shrines along roads and pastures, to revive the old European custom.” Rick Murphey is a man with a unique vision.

“I got a new idea at dinner one night, from Rev. Dennis Gordon, FSSP, our pastor at St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Coeur d'Alene, “ says Rick. When Father Gordon visited to bless one of Rick’s wayside crucifix shrines, he asked Rick to make a portable altar, designed to house an altar stone he had obtained from the chapel of the Monsignor who had baptized him. Father Gordon wanted to use the Cristeros-era stone and the portable altar on occasions when he had no access to a church to say Mass.

Rick eagerly responded to the challenge of designing and building such an altar.

“First, we built a prototype and over the course of a couple builds, a smaller, lighter model — based on feedback from the parish priests. This resulted in a more compact 14”x22”x9” size weighing about 35 lbs., with a sturdy handle for ease of carrying. It fits within the maximum dimensions for a carry-on with most airlines.”

The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.

The front panel on the altar is engraved with the “IHS” and is hand-painted with antique gold, highlighted with black. “Invisible” hinges allow the wings of the altar to fold out, yet still appear to be a long solid piece of wood. The wings are supported by two pullout drawers, lined with felt for storage of a mass kit and the crucifix. The top flips up, and a wood inlaid crucifix mounts atop in full view of the priest as he celebrates the Mass.

“Rick has found that priests prefer to have their own altar stone installed, but these altars can also be built without altar stones, in which case the priest would use a “Greek corporal” when he says Mass. This is a piece of cloth with relics sewn into it, usually used in military settings.

 

The wood for Rick’s altars is selected using quality and beauty as priorities; hemlock is his wood of choice, for its durability. It looks most beautiful stained with an antique-style finish.

“Unfortunately, due to the amount of labor required and the quality of materials, these beautiful altars are expensive. Rick's altars are fairly complex, consisting of more than 50 pieces of wood to assemble, but he doesn't have a blueprint for them. Each one is custom-made, and he works off a “general” plan. At the advice of his parish priest, he has added a more simplified model, the “monastic model” without all many coats of polyurethane, for those priests who cannot afford the high gloss original model. This has enabled him to charge significantly less.”

Unlike most commercial artists, Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.

“Perhaps with the proper skills, tools, and motivations, more people can step forward,” he says. “There is a need for travel altars, and many priests would love to have them.” 

Rick's altars can be found at his website:  stjosephsapprentice.com

 

Rick recommends that other carpenters put their skills to work for the Glory of God. He envisions carpenters crafting these for our priests, or for parishes so they can present them to their priests.

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