Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Prayer in the Domestic Church

The choice of a favorable place [for prayer] is not a matter of indifference for true prayer. For personal prayer, this can be a "prayer corner" with the Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father. In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common.

"A little oratory." Isn't that a beautiful thought? In our efforts to make our homes into domestic churches, primary consideration must be given to fostering prayer: memorized prayer, spontaneous prayer, fervency of prayer, frequency of prayer, communal prayer, private prayer, time for prayer, the habit of prayer, favorable conditions for prayer, and the topic of this post - a place for prayer.

I've seen many interpretations of a prayer corner in people's homes, ranging from an entire room furnished with a comfortable chair, bookshelves of spiritual reading, and beautiful inspirational art, to a small, crowded space on a shelf, carefully guarded in the limited space of a dorm room. I know families with a kneeler in their prayer space, a family whose small children crawled behind a large chair in their living room to set up a prayer corner (literally), families who have a small worship space set aside in each child's bedroom, etc. Many prayer corners are centered around the visual focus of some kind of family altar. No matter what your prayer space looks like, there are some elements you may want to include:

Your prayer corner should be a place where it's possible to find quiet. Elijah heard God's voice in a small whisper (1 Kings 19:11) and it's likely you'll hear Him better in a quiet time also. Encourage your kids to find a quiet, consistent prayer time for themselves. Even the smallest children (and their parents) should strive for a time in each day that is free of noise.

Your prayer corner should have some element of beauty. Saint John Damescene said, "The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God."All beauty has it's origin in God and holds the potential to point us closer to Him Who is true Beauty. Whether this little piece of beauty is some kitschy thing you found at a dollar store, a replica of a Rembrandt, or a picture your child drew of Jesus, if you see God's beauty there, it likely has a place in your place of prayer. Inversely, if you don't like that statue Aunt Martha gave you as a wedding gift, or if a piece of framed art leads to more distraction than contemplation, put it somewhere else in your home (like perhaps in the give-away box).

Your prayer corner should point to liturgical prayer. This is most easily done by simply paying attention to the liturgical colors and changing your prayer table cloths to match vestments and altar cloths at church. Right now you'd want green for ordinary time and in mid-February we'll change to purple for Lent. Red and white are also essential, and you may want rose (for Gaudete and Laetare Sundays), and gold (an optional extra for the greatest celebrations of Easter and Christmas). You'll have lots of flexibility if you can sew a little, but if you don't, you can easily find placemats or cloth napkins in these colors. An added bonus is that the periodic changes built into the Liturgical Year offer opportunities to keep things new and interesting.

Your prayer corner should be a witness to all who visit your home. Let it be a constant reminder to all who live there and a witness to friends, relatives, neighbors, the mailman, your plumber, and everyone who visits that you are joyfully and enthusiastically Catholic, and you are a family of prayer.

Francesca's little altar in her bedroom.

Lucy's Advent home altar

We invite you all to upload photos of your prayer corners at the Church Ladies' Flickr site or email them to us at the address on our sidebar.

No comments: