Monday, August 17, 2009

Domestic Church: Room by Room - Family Altars

This month, we have been discussing how our homes are our Domestic Church. In my quest for new ideas to bring into our home, I virtually met up at Faith and Family Connect, with Catholic author, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle. She has written several books on this topic and we spoke about my desire to spread the news of her wonderful book entitled, The Domestic Church: Room by Room. At the end of August, we will raffle off two of her books to two different Catholic Mamas.

One will be the aforementioned title and the other is her book, Grace Cafe: Serving Up Recipes for Faithful Mothering. I will give you details on how to sign up for the giveaway at the end of this post. ;)

My family's decision to homeschool (after many months of prayer), was only made possible because the Lord willed it. In turn, our lives have changed tremendously for the best. We are a more united and prayerful family than we were a year ago. As I reflected on this past year, I realized we grew stronger as a couple and as a family and it had to do with two things, one, opening our lives more to the Lord, and two, creating a Domestic Church within our home.

So how do you create a domestic church, you may ask? Lets begin, room by room and see the appearance of our homes. As I think of this a little further...and pray tons, I realized that our home was missing something. We have the Sacramentals all over the house, rosaries, crucifixes, etc., and yes, we are missing statues! but, that's not what I was searching for. We are missing a central location for prayer. When I taught in Catholic schools (my pre-homeschooling life) all of the classrooms had something in common - no matter what grade and that was a prayer table or classroom altar. So, this is what our home (and homeschool) is missing, a Family Altar! The next question would be, where? What better place than the center of our home, the mantle of our fireplace! This is the place I would I love to create our Family Altar. It is my nature to jump right to it and get it all done! But as my tech guy (my DH, that is) and I prayed about it, we thought it would be great if this was our first homeschool Religion project! So I'm looking for ideas....I found this wonderful site with tons of ideas:

"In contradistinction to the typical home which has a television set as its centerpiece, the focal point of a Catholic home should be the family altar -- a place where the family can gather to offer up their prayers to the Most Holy Trinity and to ask the Saints to pray for them. Morning Offerings, family Rosaries, prayers for special intentions, family novenas, Lectio Divina, etc., can all be made here.

Family altars, ideally, should be on the Eastern wall of a home, in the same orientation as church buildings. The altar can be as simple or as elaborate as one desires, but should be beautiful and conducive to contemplation. A few key items to be placed on or around the altar table are:

Sacred Scripture (Douay-Rheims)
icons (statues and/or two-dimensional)
a Holy Water font
a cellar of blessed salt
charcoal incense burner
vigil candles, candles blessed at Candlemas (to burn on All Saints Day and in times of trouble), and Baptismal candles (for use at weddings and during Unction)
Other things one might want to consider are the Breviary or the Little Office of Our Lady, Holy Cards, flowers, prie-dieux, the names of dead family members printed on beautiful parchment so we may be reminded to pray for them (having their funeral holy cards there would be nice, too), pictures of the Stations of the Cross or the Mysteries of the Rosary, something with which to play sacred music and Gregorian chant, sick call sets, palm branches from Palm Sunday, certificate of a papal blessing, etc."
If you visit the wonderful folks at, you can see more ideas beyond the Family Altar as well on this very same topic of creating a Domestic Church. A great site! I also searched the web and found some pictures and examples of Family Altars. I can't wait to get started, with my family, on ours. If you already have a Family Altar, I'd love to see a picture of yours! Do share!

So, want to know how to win one of her fantastic books? It's simple... do one or more of the following:
  1. Leave a comment after this post, on what we'd find on your FAMILY ALTAR and why they are so important in your Domestic Church. (if this is new to you, comment on if this is something you'd consider doing with your own family).
  2. Post a picture of your Family Altar (if you have one already).
  3. Subscribe to our RSS feed (see the button above on the left).
  4. Blog about this topic and link back to this blog. Remember to come back and leave a comment with your link to get credit for your post on "Family Altars".
  5. Add yourself to our "Follow Us" section.
Each of the above options will give you an entry per item you do, so you have four chances of entering! At the end of the month, we will post the two winners. It's that easy!

So Mamas, start commenting, posting, blogging, adding, etc.! to get your hands on these great books!


Widely published and deeply experienced in both family life and religious life, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle counted Blessed Teresa of Calcutta among her personal friends. She maintains numerous Web sites and has founded several Catholic apostolates and ministries. For more information on this wonderful Catholic author, please visit here. For a daily dose of inspiration, visit Donna's blog at

For a review of the Domestic Church book, check out this Catholic Blogging Homeschooling Mama's site.

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