Sacred space, a beginning to a life of prayer in the home
by Kristina Lahr | New Earth
I’ve found that how I decorate my home reflects what occupies my mind. In high school, my bedroom walls were covered with posters of my favorite movies, video games, and yes, cats. As a result, my mind naturally thought about these things often because they were what physically surrounded me.
My walls still feature a few cats, but images of Mary and Jesus now hold the most prominent place. Those images are the first things I see in the morning and the last things I see at night. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, it’s difficult to not lift my thoughts to Christ in some way – whether in thanksgiving, intercession, adoration, or contrition.
Sacred space is one of the main topics in a book I read recently: The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home. In it, the two authors, converts to Catholicism, express their mutual feeling that they were missing something on their journey to becoming Catholic. During their conversion, they learned about the Mass, traditions, saints, prayers, and treasures of the faith. However, they still asked themselves: “How can I be Catholic in between the times when I am worshipping in Church; and especially, how can I be a Catholic at home?”
This book lays a framework of how to unite the two aspects of the Christian life: love of God and love of neighbor (Mt. 22: 37-39). At the center of love of God is our worship at Mass, and the center of the second is built, and extends from, our homes. No matter our status in life – single, married, with children in the home or out of the home – this book contains practical ways to create a Catholic culture in your home. What I personally found most helpful was its focus on sacred space in the home.
“The prayer table, icon corner, or even dining room table, isn’t only a physical place; it’s a way of thinking that simplifies everything. The spiritual place in the home mirrors the ‘interior palace’ of our soul, as St. Teresa of Avila called it” (The Little Oratory).
When we surround ourselves with tools of prayer – scripture, crucifixes, rosaries, holy water, spiritual readings, icons, candles, journals, prayer cards, etc. – we learn to reach for them during moments of rest, rather than our phones or the remote. You may have these items scattered throughout your house already. A sacred space, a “little oratory,” simply brings all these things together in one intentional place that helps us use them for what they’re intended for – lifting our hearts and minds to God. Creating this space need not be costly or complicated, but it is important it is clean, organized, and inviting.
Just like when we visit a friend’s home for the first time, we learn more about them – their interests, style, but mainly, what is most important to them. By placing images of Mary and Jesus in a prominent place in my home, they become more central to my life, day in and day out.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires their home-life to reflect the teachings of the Catholic faith. Here are a few more of my takeaways.
• Pray the rosary as a family – with your spouse, parents, roommates, even alone – start small if you need to, one decade at a time. If you feel like your first, second, or 12th attempt with young kids is a failure, don’t get discouraged. Whenever we invoke Christ’s name in prayer, he is with us.
• Create a sacred space in your home. It can be the center of a dining room table, a corner table, coffee table or even a wall space. It can be as elaborate or simple as you like. Just place it somewhere you will see it on a daily basis. That way during the busyness of the day, the sight of it will be a reminder to lift a few moments to God in prayer.
• Finally, the sheer depth of Catholicism is astounding. There are so many prayers, devotions, traditions, and tools available to help us grow in our faith: Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours, rosaries, novenas, adoration, other spiritual reading, and more. On one hand, it can be overwhelming to consider all these options, but if we keep our minds and hearts open to Christ, he will lead us to whichever kinds of prayer are most beneficial to us at any given time. Christ gave us the liturgical seasons – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time – to remind us that like the changing temperatures and seasons, our prayer life is allowed to change and flourish over time.