An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sacred Spaces in our "domestic church"

The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. (CCC, no. 1666)

My husband and I both come from big, closely-knit families, so we grew up with the sense that family is everything; however, it wasn't until we started a family of our own did we realize the awesome responsibility we had of not just raising children, but of raising souls.

And because we are raising souls, we are very aware that we are building a "domestic church"; by making our house a home, we try to make it reflect who we are as a Catholic family. One of the ways we accomplish this is by creating sacred spaces. Following are some of the things we do in our family to create and support these sacred spaces in our domestic church.

The Sign of the Cross

There is a crucifix, icon, or some image of the Holy Family in almost every room. The boys have religious statues on their nightstands, and, like Cathy, there are small crucifixes over the light switches in some of our rooms. Besides serving as visual reminders of our faith, sometimes they even serve as an opening for conversation. There have been a few times when a visitor's comment on an icon led to a discussion on religion.


A central prayer station

In addition to the visual reminders scattered throughout our home, I wanted a central location that would serve as the "central station", or gathering place for family prayer. For us, that would be the kitchen table. We spend most of our time at that table . . . not only during mealtimes, but with homework, boardgames, scrapbooking, etc. So when it is time for family prayer, or the rosary, or Stations of the Cross we gather around the table. I keep the boys' devotionals there so they can read them while eating breakfast, and the center of the table reflects what is going on throughout the liturgical year: advent wreath , Easter tree, and an icon of a saint on All Saints Day are just a few examples.

A Family Ritual

One of the easiest ways to begin family prayer time is to have a ritual, some ceremonial way in which to begin. We begin every prayer time by lighting what our boys have come to call the Jesus candle. Lighting a candle is one of the oldest rituals known to man, one that lends solemnity to any occasion. It's also a sign that prayer time has begun, and by dimming the lights the single flame serves to create a sacred place around an ordinary kitchen table.

the Jesus candle

A prayer basket

As the boys started getting older, we began noticing that there was a lot of scrambling to get ready for prayers. This scrambling inevitably resulted in arguments, goofiness, or even delay tactics, so to try and avoid this last minute running around I created the prayer basket. Everything we need for our family prayer time is in that basket: rosaries, Stations of the Cross, prayer books, The Lives of the Saints for Boys, etc. Now when there is the call to prayer, all we have to do is scoop up the prayer basket and a box of matches for the Jesus candle and we're set!

our prayer basket
Welcome Home

Finally, I hope that by creating these sacred spaces our home resonates with that sense of "coming home" you experience when walking into a church. As a stay-at-home mom, I consider it part of my job description to create an environment of peace, well-being, and comfort. When my boys come home from school and when my husband comes home from work, I want them to walk in the door and experience that sense of "coming home". One of the nicest compliments I ever received was when someone told me that coming into our home was like getting a giant hug. In my efforts to create a "domestic church" atmosphere, there are a few additional things that help nurture us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

physically: to appeal to the senses

-smell: cookies baking, bread rising, or soup cooking creates a comforting, welcoming aroma
-taste: a hearty, home-cooked meal after a long commute; iced tea after Saturday morning yard work; muffins on a rainy afternoon
-touch: plenty of pillows, throws, and comfy reading chairs
-sight: in the evening (especially in the fall and winter) turn on a small lamp in every room;
turn on the front porch light as a welcome
-sound: sometimes I have to sneak it in, but playing classical or religious music in the background

mentally: things that quiet us

-providing quiet time for the boys (they do not have to be involved in every sport or attend every party)
-being organized in an effort to counterbalance life's hectic pace
-regularly picking up clutter
-although the pre-dinner hour is hectic, trying to have the boys settled so my husband (who works hard and has a long commute) doesn't have to walk into a messy, noisy household


-praying as a family
-worshiping as a family
-living your faith as a family


SuburbanCorrespondent said...

What sort of devotionals do you use for the boys?

Holly said...

I loved this Bia. It's wonderful to get a glimpse into your home and your faith. I especially love your "welcome home" part. I firmly believe that our homes should be our havens of safety from the world.

Family prayer is so important to us. We pray each morning as family before going out into the world, at each meal, and at night before bed. Our faith is an every day part of our lives, not just a church thing on Sunday.

I do so many of the things you do in trying to provide a comfortable, welcoming home. My environment is very important to me as is lack of clutter, organization, good smells, and a calm place to come home to, etc.

j.a.varela said...

Dear friend:

I land on your blog from ¿are you still there? You are kindly invited to visit our own family blog and to . I believe you will feel very comfortable there. It is a healthy neighborhood. I will add “la dolce vita” to familia en la blogosfera section. Please if you have any objection let me know to . And feel free to comment.
You will see a section called family traditions. I´ve seen you have some interesting points about it.


E said...

Lovely....You are making a sweet life full of meaning and memory. I love reading your blog.

Kellan said...

You have done a wonderful job making your home a special place for your children - a place where God is so important. I love the Jesus candle - I might start doing that in our family.

Have a good afternoon Bia - see you soon. Kellan

Lisa said...

Oh, Bia, this is wonderful. I can feel the welcome and faith in your home all the way from here. Thank-you for sharing this and for offering it for the Simply Lovely Fair!

GrandmaK said...

What warmth and comfort you offer in your "Sacred Space". It is gentle and sublime. I really like the Prayer Basket!! That is a great idea! Have a grand day!!! Cathy

Maria said...

Those are some great ideas. In our religion, our house is like a church, too. We have one designated room with a cross and some icons for praying in. The cross is supposed to face the east, and there is no TV in the room.

michele said...

Your home feels so warm and inviting. Your Sacred Spaces are beautiful, Many inspirational words to go with it. Thanks for sharing!

Kathryn said...

I love this post!
I wish we lived near each other because I highly suspect we'd be great friends, we think a lot alike!
I want to walk into your home too, just reading about it sounds like a great big hug!

Bia said...

Sr. Varela,
Mucho gusto conocerle!

j.a.varela said...

Estimada Bia:

Voy a correr el riesgo de escribir en español. Lo haría en italiano si lo dominara como mis hijos. Acaba de llegar uno de Milano y hoy ya se va otro a pasar Semana Santa junto al Papa en Roma.

Da una gran alegría conocer familias como la suya all over the world.

Y muchas felicitaciones por su eapañol.

juan alberto varela

Wendy said...

Bia - I love to hear about the strong spiritual foundation you are laying for your family. They are truly blessed through you. I wish I were more like you in this area.

Also, could you tell me how to make the link, with just the words as you did in this post? I don't know how to do that yet. I always have to put the link address in the text because I'm new to all this. Thanks.

P.S. Can I come live with you? It DOES sound welcoming and calming! I could use your "giant hug" now and then.

Bia said...

Sr. Varela,

Ud puede escribir en espanol porque entiendo mucho, pero cuando tengo que escribirlo...italiano si, pero espanol a veces es una problema!

Que suerte que su hijo va a Roma! Yo visite' Roma el mayo pasado, y, como siempre, Roma es una ciudad fantastica.

Bia said...

Wendy, your welcome anytime!
God bless.

j.a.varela said...

Estupendo Bia. Eso facilita mucho las cosas.

Anímate a escribir una "tradición familiar" de tu familia de sangre para Familia en construcción. En Italiano estará OK. Pero también en Inglés. Nos darás una alegría enorme.

encontrarás la forma de hacerlo. Don Joan domina perfectamente el italiano.

Ánimo que tenemos mucho que aprender de tus "tradiciones familiares"

juan alberto varela

LaDonnaMobile said...

I especially enjoyed the ideas you share for establishing religious rituals in the home; I read a great book by Paul Woodruff (a professor of Ethics and American Society at the University of Texas) called *Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (Oxford, 2001)* in which he outlines cultures whose religious rituals (all exercised in the home) contributed to healthier marriages and parent-child relationships as well as work ethics and academic success! Brava!

Lacey said...

I love your ideas here. I get a sense of your home just from your descriptions! As J starts to get bigger I want to establish these same kinds of traditions. When (like what time of day) is your family prayer time? Thanks for the post! Much to think about!!

priest's wife said...


Sarah said...

I LOVE this post! As my Maggie is only 4 months old, I am trying to figure out what kind of things will make our home inviting and warm for our family and friends. Thank you so much for sharing all of these suggestions!

I especially like the prayer baskets and Jesus candle. :)