As part of the Saint Brendan Small Bytes speaker series, internationally-acclaimed author and artist, David Clayton, spoke on December 13 about ways to create a beautiful space for prayer in our homes. During an interactive session, he explained the why’s and how’s of creating a home altar. To listen to Professor Clayton’s complete talk, click here. In the meantime, here are some really practical ways to get started on turning your home into a “domestic church” and a house of prayer.
Finding The Right Place
Like the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, finding the right place and orientation for your home altar is the first step. In her blog, Katie Warner suggests selecting a spot that is easily accessible to everyone, perhaps in the family room or another common area. You can use any surface, such as a table, book shelf, mantle, or other noticeable nook. In his talk, David Clayton, suggested that the altar should be oriented so that it is facing East, if possible, because facing East is a symbol of our hope in the risen Christ.
Adorning Your Home Altar
The next step is to decorate your prayer space, so that it will be attractive and call you to prayer each time you pass by the area. Use linens to dress up the surface of the altar. You can use a regular table cloth or even purchase special items in a dollar store to add some color during Advent, Lent, and special feasts. Professor Clayton suggested including at least three items: a crucifix; an image or icon of the Madonna (Mary holding the infant Jesus); and a picture of Jesus after he was resurrected from the dead. You can also include other sacred objects, such as the Bible, prayer cards and books, statues, a Rosary, candles, blessed salt, incense, and even Holy Water.
Praying At Your Home Altar
Now that you’ve found the right place for your prayer space and adorned it with linens and inspiring sacred objects, don’t just admire your creation as another form of home decoration. Spend some quality time praying there, both individually and as a family. If you have children, gather there after dinner to pray. Light some candles, read a story from a children’s Bible. Ask your children to pray for something they need and for something for which they are grateful. Do the same yourself. Professor Clayton also suggested singing a song or a chant around the altar. It can be as easy as praying the Our Father using a simple chant form like at Mass. Or just put on some sacred music and listen to it together. Even when you are not specifically praying in front of the altar, reverence your little prayer space throughout the day. Take little moments to look at the altar and bless yourself with the sign of the cross or a quick prayer as you pass by, turning your heart to Jesus and acknowledging Mary as the Queen of the Family.
A Few Examples
Below are a few examples of beautiful home altars from our own parishioners at Saint Brendan.
Saint Brendan Church in San Francisco. Check out our exciting featured news articles.