The blessing of the home:
Whether your domestic church is a house or an apartment, invite a priest to come to bless it, either when you first move in or at any time. In addition to blessing your home, you may enthrone your home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Invite a priest to assist you with the enthronement or do it on your own by hanging up the images in your home and praying the following prayer together.
Act of family consecration:
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves and our entire family to you. We consecrate to you: our very being and all our life. All that we are. All that we have. And all that we love. To you we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls. To you we dedicate our home and our country. Mindful of this consecration, we promise you to live the Christian way by the practice of Christian virtues, with great regard for respect for one another. O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, accept our humble confidence and this act of consecration by which we entrust ourselves and all our family to you. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Praying the Rosary is a popular devotion for many Catholic families, who, through its mysteries, reflect on significant events in Scripture pertaining to Jesus and Mary. Wearing the brown scapular is a devotion whereby the person places himself or herself under the protection of the Blessed Mother.
Sacred images and sacramentals:
A domestic church should be filled with sacred images and sacramentals. Holy pictures and crucifixes should be hung throughout. A holy-water font can be placed by the front door in order to bless oneself with holy water and remind you of your baptism. Holy water should be regularly sprinkled throughout the home.
Parents can trace the Sign of the Cross with their thumb or forefinger on their child’s forehead at any time while asking God to bless him or her.
Celebrate your family’s name-days, which are the days dedicated to each person’s patron saint.
Follow the liturgical year:
Families can pray the Liturgy of the Hours together.
Creating family traditions:
Establish your own family traditions. Enjoy regular dinners together, connecting as a family, sharing and praying together. Incorporate a holy pilgrimage into the family vacation by visiting shrines.
A Prayer Corner:
A few sacred tangible items placed in view makes praying more touchable for our kids. A prayer table or prayer corner set up in a gathering area of the home can help to draw our attention to the sacred rather than the secular.
In its explanation of favorable places for prayer and worship, the Catechism tells us, “For personal prayer, this can be a ‘prayer corner’ with Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father [Mt 6:6]. In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common” (No. 2691).
To create this prayer corner, simply place a small table in your dining room or living room, wherever best suits your needs. A beautiful icon or a crucifix can be hung on the wall above the table. A Bible, prayer books, holy water and basket of rosary beads can be placed on the table. Children’s books on saints or with Bible stories can fill a basket or bookshelf nearby. You might want your prayer table to reflect the various seasons in the liturgical year, adorning it with flowers on holy days or Marian feast days. A candle can be lighted or incense burned (with adult supervision) for family prayers, making the occasion of prayer more ceremonious.
Children can sit upon pillows or mats as they gather for morning or evening prayer or while listening to an age appropriate inspirational story. The kids can be encouraged to draw holy pictures to decorate the area. Prayer petitions can be scribbled on paper and placed on the prayer table.
This unique area will grow with your children as you replace the large wooden rosary beads with grown-up beads and swap out the little kid books for more mature ones. With a smidgen of time, some thought and prayer, you will have fashioned a little oratory for holy encounters, a place of refuge. Even when not in use, your prayer corner stands as a reminder of a holy reason for your days within the home.
We are family
The Church calls on families of all shapes and forms — not just those headed by a married Catholic mother and Catholic father — to make their homes a domestic church. Here is how some families are making that happen.
Many domestic churches are headed by just one parent due to a spouse’s passing or because of a divorce or separation. I myself was a single mother for many years and raised my children in the faith alone. As a single mother, rounding everybody up to get to Mass on time can be challenging. As well, tiptoeing in and out of Mass with a noisy youngster is difficult when you have other little ones and no one to assist you. I know this fact alone inhibits some single parents from going to church.
Even though single-parent families are commonplace these days, we still live in a couple’s world and that can be hard, too, for the single parent. I am extremely thankful for the gift of faith that strengthened me each day in my resolve to raise virtuous Catholic children despite my circumstances. The Catholic tradition handed down to me by my parents lived vibrantly in my heart and fueled my desire to raise my children well, and also reminded me that I was not alone after all. God was guiding me every step of the way.
Being married to a non-Catholic can sometimes feel as if you are a single parent according to Sue Stratton, a mother of five with one on the way in Corinna, Maine. She finds shouldering the job of conveying the faith to her children alone extremely challenging and exhausting because her husband is a nonbeliever.
“After 15 years of marriage, I wonder if my faith will ever have an effect on my husband at all. I originally thought he would convert to the faith, but after years and watching him still hold pretty strong opinions about the Church, I fear it may never happen,”she told OSV. “I will admit I pray almost every single night that God will bring my husband into the faith, because I so desperately want help raising the children in the faith.”
To guide her children in the faith each day in her domestic church, Stratton fuels herself with prayer, the sacraments and Catholic camaraderie. She says, “It’s my Catholic friends who help to keep the lamp burning.” She wishes the Church would “focus more attention on the family” by encouraging them to help one another and having parishes offer families greater support.
Maria Murphy became the legal guardian of her grandson William when he was 7 years old because his father died and his mother, Elizabeth, suffers from serious emotional problems. They live together at Murphy’s home in Brookfield, Conn.
Murphy considers her role raising William, now 12, as “a wonderful part of my life — a new phase,” she said. “He’s a beautiful person, and I want to bring him up to be a healthy, happy, productive, holy and caring person.” To gain encouragement and enjoy solidarity in raising William, she attends a weekly grandparent support group.
At times it’s an uphill battle raising a grandchild because of age differences and dealing with a permissive culture.
“The others have cell phones and are allowed to do a lot more. The parents don’t want to do as much for their children as I do,” Murphy told OSV. “Things are so different from when my daughter Elizabeth grew up.”
For a 70-year-old, raising a growing grandchild can be thoroughly exhausting. “If I didn’t have my faith and couldn’t talk to God or stop into church for daily Mass or a visit, I don’t know how I would survive,” she told OSV.
Praying in the domestic church
Simply put, “A family that prays together stays together” (Blessed Mother Teresa). Additionally, our Catechism tells us, “The Christian family is the first place for education in prayer” (No. 2694). We must endeavor to lay down a foundation of prayer in our domestic churches. It will undoubtedly be one of the most important things we will ever do as Christian parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Prayer comes from the depths of our hearts and stretches up like incense to reach God. It is through the gift of faith that we pray. The Holy Spirit teaches the faithful to pray in hope. We learn from the Psalms, “I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry” (Ps 40:2). Love is at the very core of prayer. So, we see that the theological virtues of faith, hope and love are tightly meshed together in the mystery of prayer.
To hand down the amazing gift of prayer to the family, we can start with our own example of praying in the company of our family, showing them that we can offer up prayers at any time, whether there is a particular need or just a desire to thank God for his many blessings.
As well, we should establish specific times to pray together as a family, such as: morning and evening prayers, a family Rosary (or a decade), and grace before and after meals (see sidebar below for more prayer suggestions).
A gentle approach to teaching prayer is preferred over a strict regimented one. We want to impress upon our children that prayer is, in reality, a personal conversation with God.
A valuable prayer lesson is in outwardly showing your Christian love for your spouse, your children, your neighbors and the world. Impress upon your children that they are loved by God and have been blessed with gifts to serve others too.
Setting up a prayer table or prayer corner provides a tangible way for the family to focus on prayer (see sidebar above for instructions). And all throughout the daily give-and-take within the family, dealing with inconveniences, differences and occasional discord, the family learns the valuable lesson of offering it all to God right in the nitty-gritty details of ordinary life, lovingly helping one another get to heaven.
Jesus, Mary, Joseph! Graciously accept our family, which we dedicate and consecrate to you. Be pleased to protect, guard, and keep it in sincere faith, in peace and in the harmony of Christian charity. By conforming ourselves to the divine model of your family, may we all attain to eternal happiness.
Prayer for a Family:
Lord, bless our family, all of us now together, those far away, all who are gone back to you. May we know joy. May we bear our sorrows in patience. Let love guide our understanding of each other. Let us be grateful to each other. We have all made each other what we are. O family of Jesus, watch over our family. Amen.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends and in particular of the Holy Father.
Grace Before Meals:
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Prayer After Meals:
We give you thanks for all your gifts, almighty God, living and reigning now and forever. Amen.
Hear us, Lord, and send your angel from heaven to visit and protect, to comfort and defend all who live in this house. Amen.
O dear Jesus, I humbly implore you to grant your special graces to our family. May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith. I beg you, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and present, living and dead.
Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle March 21, 2011