Home Chapels Aid Family Prayer
Tips for creating sacred spaces in your domestic church.
For the 2016-17 TV season, Nielsen media research estimates there are 118.4 million TV homes in the United States. According to a Nielsen 2016 quarterly, adults over the age of 18 spent an average of more than four hours a day watching television — not counting using other media such as radio and internet. But how many hours are devoted to prayer?
One perfect place to pray is a home chapel or home altar.
“It could be anywhere where you could get away and spend some quality time with the Lord,” said Father Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff Church in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. Father Heilman, founder of the popular RomanCatholicMan.com and state chaplain for the Wisconsin Knights of Columbus, tells folks in today’s parlance they can even make a “‘God cave’ instead of a man cave.”
Where to Begin
Father Heilman recommends families surround themselves with sacredness. Such essentials begin with a crucifix, images of the Blessed Mother or the Immaculate Heart and Sacred Heart. A beautiful image of Divine Mercy and statues would also augment the prayerful atmosphere.
A kneeler would be nice to have too, but have “a nice comfortable place to sit where you can pray your Rosary, reflect on Scripture and contemplate the Lord’s presence,” the priest said. “Then get creative from that point on.”
Room to Share
Martin Kalina did.
He finds tremendous benefits with his family’s sacred space, a chapel in their Wisconsin home.
He used to sit on the couch or walk around the house to pray a Rosary, but found “everything was so distracting.”
So when the Kalinas moved to their present house, Martin found that an extra room in the basement was an ideal place to create a home chapel. “Its benefits me tons,” he said of the result.
His family — wife Elizabeth, 10-year-old son Sean and 9-year-old daughter Abigail — also enjoy praying in the special room.
Above a table, Kalina placed a central crucifix and picture of Divine Mercy. The altar, made from a table, hosts statues of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, St. Michael, two relics and candles. Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and our Blessed Mother stand on both sides of the altar. Other sacred articles include an icon of Our Lady and beautiful statues of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts, which belonged to Kalina’s grandparents.
Kalina was able to obtain a kneeler and chair from a church that had “extras.” He has a Bible open on the kneeler, rosary beads handy on a self, and spiritual reading in bookcases against the walls, as well. The candles and a small incense burner add to the sacred atmosphere. “You try to hit all your senses,” he explained, “putting the time in, and having the silence” for prayer.
In their Alabama home, the Lett family has turned a room into “Annunciation House.”
Noah Lett, a theological adviser at EWTN, said: Make “it clear to yourself this space is the leaven for the whole house” and understand that “the altar in this house is an explicit sacred space. Don’t use it for anything else. Only the sacred images and objects go on it.”
“What takes place inside is an encounter with God,” Lett said. Among sacred art there is a copy Fra Angelico’s version of the Annunciation and other familiar images of the Madonna and Child, Jesus and Gabriel the Archangel.
They also have an original icon painted for them, and their goal is to have “further artwork by human hands.” He recommended having icons positioned eastward, facing the rising sun if possible, or the tabernacle in a nearby church because “directions can have a theological purpose.”
Statues — same goes for colors reflecting liturgical seasons — can be changed to highlight particular feasts, seasons or saints.
These holy reminders make “the saints vivid in your home,” Lett said.
Together, the Letts gather for Morning Prayer in Annunciation House. “This is Mary’s house, and we do what Mary says,” Lett explained, which includes having “the value of human contact,” such as showing the prayer room to guests. For example, the Letts invited a couple whom they met at the Easter vigil to Easter dinner. The husband was Catholic, but not the wife. She later told them, “I saw your house and wondered: What people would have religious art like this?” Their witness told her, Lett said, the home is “not just a domicile, but a witness built and lived in for something greater.”
The woman is now Catholic.
Home chapels are a wonderful way to teach children, too. As Father Heilman observed, “One of the best ways to catechize your children is to let them see how serious you are about your faith.”
Benefits for the Young
Lett said his children have learned that “what they do in church is not just in the church, but comes home with them.”
In Aiken, South Carolina, Ellen Mongan knows the benefits of a home chapel, as well, for young family members.
She and her husband, Deacon Pat Mongan, who have seven children and 12 grandchildren, “always had a prayer room in the house,” Mongan said. “There was everything about Jesus in our home.”
When their children were little, she recalled, “We would light a candle every day before a statue of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower.” And Deacon Pat “would take the children and pray the Rosary with them before they went to school.”
In a bedroom alcove, the Mongans have placed a kneeler before an antique picture of the Sacred Heart, and a Bible is open on a pedestal.
Sacred art can be found throughout the Mongan home — from an image of Jesus with the Crown of Thorns to a portrait of the Prophet Joshua painted by Ellen’s father.
Her grandmother’s crucifix is a visible reminder of passing on the faith. Another image shows St. John Paul II embraced by our Blessed Mother.
“It’s such a witness for the grandchildren,” she observed, as well as others who visit.
“They see Jesus everywhere. When kids come into our home, I want them to reflect on the Lord.” She added, “Visuals stay in your soul.”
And so does prayer.
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.