29 March 2019 | St. Mark the Evangelist
One of the beauties of the Catholic Church is how She encourages Her children to live Her liturgy in every aspect of their lives, not just on Sundays at Mass.
One method of living an authentic, traditional Catholic life is via the Ecclesia Domestica, or the Domestic Church. This involves living out the liturgical life of the Church in the home; bringing the Church into the home and Catholicising the daily life of the household.
The main way of doing this is by setting up a domestic oratory where the family can gather for daily prayers and devotions. This is usually done by setting up an altar or a prayer area, complete with images, statues, icons, incense, candles and the like. The decoration can be as simple or complex as personal taste requires; the object is to honour the Lord by making Him, not the TV, the centre of the home and by devoting time and space to prayer, mediation and the salvation of the soul.
Since I discovered the Ecclesia Domestica back when I was still an Anglican in mid-conversion to Catholicism, I have maintained, in some fashion, an altar to the Lord. Since the time of writing this post, I have just moved from my family home where I had a domestic oratory, and now I have just set up a new one in my new place (although it seems a bit redundant considering I've moved in with a priest who has not only a Church next door to the house, but also a chapel within the house as well!). You can view my new altar below.
Now, the camera slightly distorts the reality of this altar. It is taller than how it comes across in the photo. For instance, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the middle is 21 inches in reality, but doesn't look it in the photo. I would like the large Crucifix on the right there to be in the centre of the altar, but that is something for later. But, I digress.
Now, this is quite a basic altar compared to my last one, which was a desk and so could hold far more. Yet, the idea is the same: a place to turn to pray and spend some quiet time with the Lord. How you decorate your altar is up to you, but here is list of what I have on mine at the moment:
I have far more stuff, but they can't all fit on the altar, so they are stored away until I need them. My collection of statues are also stored, and the idea is to rotate them so each Saint has a turn on the altar. I have still to work out what that rota looks like.
And that's it. It's not really that complicated at all. I also put a old sheet under it all just to protect the surface of the dresser the altar is on.
Your altar should be a place where all the family can gather for morning and evening prayers. Familial prayers are not only a nice family thing, but actually necessary to salvation. The Catholic family is to radically live out the Faith truly and properly, with father and father guiding and teaching the children as to their duties to the Lord and His Church. The family rosary can be prayed at the altar, along with Lauds and Vespers. At night, before bed, after the evening prayers are said, the father can bestow his blessing to his family, anointing each with holy water.
I cannot recommend enough the use of a domestic oratory. It helps me direct my prayers, as in a Church. I have a focal point with which to turn, and by it I can fulfil my dignity as a Christian. By it, I pray with the Church; I sing with the Church; I meditate with the Church; I suffer with the Church. All that I do before my altar is with, by and in the Church; with, by and in the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ Himself.