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Friday, August 23, 2013

Practicing Catholicism at home: home altars, family prayers, Catholic chant

This post is a combination of some of the things I like the most. Being Catholic; putting my Faith into practice not just in Church but also at home; old Catholic books (I have quite a wonderful collection of Catholic books that I can’t get enough of -some dating back over 100 years); and raising a Catholic family. Being Catholic- a practicing Catholic is a wonderful blessing to me.  I can't imagine my life any other way.

Recently I found an online old Catholic book (on EWTN's website) that I fell in love with instantly! All my comments are in this BLUE color, everything else (in black) is from t
he book “How to Make Your House A Home: Family Liturgy and Religious Practices”, written by Rev. Bernward Stokes, O.F.M. in 1955. The book is full of things Catholics can do year round to practice their faith, everything from singing together, meals for feast days, old traditions for different saints, how to deepen your faith during the different liturgical seasons in the Church and much more. Speaking for my own family, we have incorporated several practices that are included in this book, including family rosary/prayer, Catholic music, home altar, feast day traditions and a few others. 
Our home altar with kneeler (left)

Today I am sharing some quotes from the book along with photos of our home altar and how to make a home altar. If you have a home altar and have shared photos on your blog or some other social media outlet please share a link, I would love to see your photos! 

 Liturgy and Religious Practices 
 by Rev. Bernward Stokes O.F.M.

Family Life Bureau National Catholic Welfare Conference

Censor Deputatus CYPRIAN DE GRAAF, O.F.M., 
Censor Deputatus Imprimi Potest: DAVID TEMPLE, O.F.M., 
Minister Provincialis Nihil Obstat: EDGAR SCHMIEDELER, O.S.B. Censor deputatus 
 Imprimatur: +PATRICK A. O'BOYLE Archbishop of Washington 
SEPTEMBER 24, 1955 

Several years ago a Catholic family, the Trapp Family, fled from Austria and came to the United States. Since that time they have supported themselves by giving concerts. Their beautiful voices have made a great impression on the people who flocked to hear them, but an even greater impression was made by their obvious interdependence and wonderful family spirit. They were more than a choir--they were also a model family. After the concert the spectators were left with the feeling that the Trapp family had something which they didn't have. Some might have asked themselves, "How did they get their spirit? How could our family become like theirs?" Families like that of the Trapp's do not happen by chance. They are molded over the years by living the Christian life in full. A full Christian life is one in which the members work, play and pray together--and thus achieve a mutual trust and love. 


Divine Mercy Image Altar
THE HOME ALTAR: The home altar should be one of the most important places in the home. It doesn't have to be on a grand scale; an old table, even a reconstructed packing box would do. But it should be kept neat and clean, and there should be some fresh flowers on it if possible. Over the table one might have a religious picture. The prints which were mentioned on page 39 and which may be changed according to the season, might be the best. On the altar itself one might place a cloth. If the children are allowed to make or stitch it, they will feel that they have done something "personal" for Our Lord. A statue or crucifix might also be placed on the altar. A few candles and a vigil light may be kept on the altar to be used at least on special occasions. As Therese Mueller says, "What is Sunday night prayer without candles!" In some homes a niche may be found for the home altar. 
**Some things we use in creating our home altar: crucifix, saint statues, candles, holy water, prayer cards, rosary beads, crosses, angels and a kneeler I was happy to purchase from my priest years ago.  

Another simple home altar, a few statues, crucifix, candles and prayer cards.

Infant Jesus picture, chanting monks bookends, crucifix, rosary, prayer cards and candle complete this home altar.

A HOME GROTTO: If the family is fortunate enough to have a large backyard, or if it lives in the country, it is a good idea to make a small grotto in the garden and get a statue of Our Lady or of the Sacred Heart for it. If it is impossible to obtain a statue, a picture would do. The grotto could be planned over a long time, and the whole family could help in its construction and care.  
**We do not YET have a home grotto, that is a project we hope to do next year.**

FAMILY SINGING AND MUSIC: Family singing is another practice which Katherine Byles stresses. She says:[41] "Family singing is a thrilling experience to children. Psychologists today talk much about the value of community singing. Schools and colleges have glee clubs and the large cities have choral societies. Singing in a crowd produces friendliness and creates a bond of union among people. Leaders who get crowds together for a song festival certainly help to produce good feeling. Why then should not the family make use of this age-old custom to strengthen the bonds that unite its members? God gave us singing voices, and certainly children love to sing. In school, songs and hymns are taught. Encourage the children to sing them at home too. Make it a rule to sing all you can with them." Mrs. Byles also mentions the use of Gregorian chant. Some may laugh at the idea of children singing in chant, but some of the simplest and most beautiful music written is in Gregorian; for example, the "Dies Irae," the "Magnificat," and many other hymns. Most of these chants may be found in English at our Catholic book shops-and for only a small sum.

**In our family, we have several Gregorian Chant CD's to pick from (we are listeners, not singers), some of my favorites are: 
1) Easter Gregorian Chant by the Monastic Choir of the Abbey of Notre Dame de Fontgombault 

2) Mount St.Mary's Vespers CD

FAMILY PRAYER: One of the most beautiful of Christian family traditions is that of family prayer--of the family praying as a unit. Wherever it is observed, the children are left with profound memories which they will carry with them for life. But just what should the family prayers consist of? They should be liturgical, short, varied, appropriate, and (one of the most important points) IN GOOD, CLEAR, SIMPLE ENGLISH. Donald Attwater[42] makes this suggestion: "One of the family might read aloud a scriptural lesson from the Mass of the day (Gospel and Epistle on alternate days; when some common lessons occur frequently, substitute others); then say together the 'Nunc dimittis' or 'De profundis' for the dead; then the father, or senior present, might recite the Collect for the day, one or two more at choice for particular mercies or thanksgivings from the 'Orationes Diversae' in the Missal, and finally one 'Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this house and family,' from Compline." If one has a home altar, that would be the best place for the family prayers. If one recites the Rosary for family prayers, one should take care to make the meditations on the various mysteries. It is so easy to be careless. 

**For Family Prayer time, we have a wonderful music CD, "The Prayer of the Church:The Rosary" produced by David Phillips and "Hail, Queen of Heaven" by Seraphim, also produced by David Phillips. These are favorites in our home.

THE FAMILY ROSARY: The Family Rosary is a beautiful custom which is dear to the heart of many peoples. The Rosary is dear also to the heart of Our Blessed Mother, as was shown in a special way at Fatima. But there are some dangers which must be taken into consideration. The main part of the Rosary devotion is the meditation on the fifteen mysteries, and meditation is much more than a mere recital of the name of the next mystery. Among the Irish, the "trimmings" or intentions take as long as does the Rosary itself. These are prayers for the honor of God, for thanksgiving, for members of the family who happen to be away from home, and especially for the members of the family who are abroad. This custom brings out the "oneness" which should be found in every family. The Louisiana French who live in towns or cities have adopted the practice of having all the families living in the same block gather at least once a week for the community recitation of the Rosary. This is another custom which is gaining ground in other parts of the country. [end book quote]

**Most of the time all pray the rosary independently when we go to bed. Occasionally, I will lead my children together before our home altar in the rosary.  And sometimes we use EWTN's Mother Angelica and her nuns television rosary prayer.  Other times, I find myself praying the rosary while I drive or while I am waiting to pick up a child from one school event or another.  There is always some time in the day to fit the rosary into your Catholic life... don't miss the opportunity.
Please share links to some of your photos and share how you are a practicing Catholic at home. I would truly love to hear from you.  God bless!

Book Source:

**All photos are my own- they are not in the book**

In Christ,


  1. Here is a link to a picture of my small home altar/icon corner.

  2. Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your photo.

  3. How beautiful!! I love it, love all these things. In my heart, I would be happy to be immersed in these Catholic things! I guess we are going to enjoy our heaven someday. ;)


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