Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Church in Miniature

The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children ... Lumen Gentium 11

I've long been fascinated by the concept of family as the domestic church, and exploring different ways to make that happen has definitely enhanced our family life and has extended the concept of "church" well beyond our beloved Sunday commitment.

One of the most rewarding has been to have a prayer table (aka prayer center or family altar) in a prominent place in our home. It could be a mantle, an end table, or even a dedicated place on a bookshelf. Ideally, at least in my mind, it would be some kind of small, attractive cabinet with concealed storage space. In our house, the prayer table happens to reside on an antique sewing machine cabinet in our dining room. The point is to make it central (I guarantee it will elicit comments from visitors!), and beautiful (otherwise, why bother?).

A Few Rules:

  • Keep it current – There is always a new season, a patron’s feast day, or the anniversary of a family sacramental milestone to remember. All of these can be reflected in the decorations of your space. Decorating a prayer table is a delightful activity for small children; they love to collect spring flowers to place near a statue of the Blessed Virgin or update a tiny easel with a new image from your holy card collection.
  • Keep it clean - Just as you would never place inappropriate items (balloons or large bouquets, for example) on a church's altar, your prayer table should not be the repository for any of the random stuff that collects on any available surface of a typical home.
  • Keep it beautiful - The most important feature is to make it attractive while echoing the seasons of the Church through your choice of flowers, candles, art, and cloths.

And that brings me to what prompted this post. Several years ago I wanted to make prayer table cloths (table runners) for a bride-to-be friend. I was amazed at how difficult it was to find appropriate fabric in nice shades of liturgical colors, and since then I’ve always kept the project in the back of my mind on visits to fabric stores. So here’s my church lady tip-of-the-day -- Jo-Ann Fabrics currently has a lovely selection of brocades. For a very reasonable price I purchased 1¼ yards of a beautiful gold cloth from which I will be able to make three runners (one for me and two for future church-lady gifts). Hopefully, I will have time to sew one of them before Sunday’s feast of Christ the King.


Lucy said...

I am using that very same brocade to re-cover a burse for my spiritual director, Father John.

Anonymous said...

A little extract from "P. Maximilian Kolbe" (Maria Winowska): ...Several times she (his mother) noticed, the little boy disappearing behind the cupboard. Beyond this, there was a little housaltar of the Madonna of Tschenstochau. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, an oil lamp burned in front of the picture...// I like your suggestion to create a house altar. It would be interesting, to see some photos of these worship-places from different localities.