The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Every Catholic home should be considered a microcosm of the Church, with the Father as the head, Mother as the cherished spouse (both equal before God in dignity and, always, treating each other equally in charity), and with the children brought up learning how to know, love, and serve God.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The true head of the Catholic home is Jesus, just as He is Head of the Church but appointed a Vicar in the Supreme Pontiff, our Holy Father. The constant awareness of Christ's Kingship, with the family's week centered on the Mass, and day centered on prayer, is key.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home At a minimum, in addition to being encouraged to pray in his own words, prayers that every Catholic child should know are: • The prayers of the Rosary: • Apostles' Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Fatima Prayer, Sign of the Cross • (the very smallest of children should know how and when to sign themselves) • The Nicene Creed • Blessing before Meals • Blessing after Meals • Prayer to Guardian Angel • Act of Contrition • Hail Holy Queen • The Eternal Rest Prayer
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Prayer should be further encouraged by placing Holy Water fonts near your front door and in each child's room. They should be taught what Holy Water is, what using it signifies, and how to use it -- and parents should bless their children with it, signing them on their foreheads.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Each child's room should also have a crucifix hanging over the bed (these crucifixes should be blessed by a priest).
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Ideally, every family should consecrate their home to the Sacred Heart, overtly stating their intentions of making Christ the King of their household. You should ask a priest to bless your home as soon as you move into it (aside from the blessing of new homes, there is a tradition of having one's home blessed also on the Feast of the Epiphany).
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home 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. 1
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home 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.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home A few key items to be placed on or around the altar table are: • Crucifix • Sacred Scripture • Icons (statues and/or two-dimensional) • A Holy Water font • A cellar of blessed salt • charcoal incense burner • Rosaries • 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)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home 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 muasic and Gregorian chant, • Sick call sets, • Palm branches from Palm Sunday, • certificate of a papal blessing, etc.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home It would be especially good if at least a small library could be built up containing books to feed the faith: • traditional Catechisms for children and adults, • Butler's "Lives of the Saints," • Thomas á Kempis's "Imitation of Christ," • St. Thomas Aquinas's "Summa Theologica," • St. Augustine's "City of God" and "Confessions," • the writings of St. Thérèse de Lisieux (the "Little Flower"), • St. John of the Cross, • Teresa of Avila, etc. • "Coffee table books" that include beautiful pictures of Christendom's great works of art and architecture would be very inspiring, too.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Family altars, like the rest of the home, can be decorated according to the liturgical season, changing tablecloths, sacred images, and flowers according to that Season's liturgical colors and themes.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Buy one of those little tiny 6" easels made to display small pictures, and then buy an assortment of Holy Cards to place on it according to liturgical season or Feast. • For ex., on the Feast of st. Nicholas, a Holy Card bearing his likeness can be set out; • on Good Friday, a card depicting the Crucifixion; • on the family's Name Days, depictions of their patrons can be placed on it, etc.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Artistic mothers or fathers can embroider altar cloths with appropriate Seasonal symbols and colors. Another idea is to embroider phrases or appropriate verses from Scripture along the borders or at the center of altar cloths that summarize the Season's "mood."
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: Advent (purple) • Advent candles; Advent wreath; empty crib; St. John the Baptist; "Veni, veni Emmanuel" (Come, come Emmanuel); "Ecce Dominus veniet" (Behold, the Lord our God shall come); "Ero cras" (the O Antiphon acrostic meaning "Tomorrow I come"); the titles given to Jesus in the O Antiphons: Sapientia, Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex Gentium, Emmanuel
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: Chrismastide (white) • star; manger, candles; bells; mother and Child; angels;Christmas candle; holly; ivy; Christmas rose; poinsettia; Glastonbury thorn; wreath; Christmas tree; mistletoe; cardinals; robins; yule log; "Glória in excélsis Deo" (Glory to God in the Highest)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: Time after Epiphany (green) • water and wine of miracle at Cana; fish and loaves; Scallop Shell; "Benedícitus Dóminus Deus Israel, Qui facit mirabília magna solus a saeculo" (Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, Who alone doth wonderful things from the beginning)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: • Lent (Septuagesima) (purple) • chains; tears; "De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam" (From the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Let thine ears be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant); Cross; crown of thorns; nails; Chalice; Host; "Kyrie eléison" (Lord, have mercy); "Immutémur hábitu in cinere et cilicio" (Let us change our garments for ashes and sackcloth)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: Eastertide (white) • empty Tomb; egg; lamb; the Paschal candle; bells; peacock; butterfly; phoenix; "Christus Resurrexit" (Christ is risen)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The Seasons' colors and some appropriate symbols for them are: Ordinary Time (Time after Pentecost (green)) • the number 1,000 (the letter "M" in Roman numerals); Church; Peter's Keys; crown symbolizing Christ's Kingship; "Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat" (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands); "Vive Christus Rex" (Long live Christ the King)
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Also in keeping with the liturgical Seasons and Feast Days, • icons and statues can be covered with purple cloth during Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent); • statues of Mary can be crowned with roses in May; lilies (especially blessed lilies) can be placed there on the Feast of St Anthony of Padua (13 June); • Advent wreaths can be set up on the first Sunday of Advent; the crèche ("nativity scene") could be set up here during Christmastide, etc. • Some families even clothe statues of Our Lady according to the liturgical season, for example, dressing her in a black veil for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows and Good Friday, in white or gold for Christmas and Easter, etc.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home It is very important for parents to make the liturgical year come alive for their children, to make it a part of the rhythm of their children's lives. This will help them pay more attention at Mass during the Gospel and sermons. It has the psychological benefit of helping the children feel both "grounded" in a stable, traditional family, and a part of something "bigger than they are" in terms of the Church, the cycles of the liturgical year being something shared by Catholics for millennia. These "little things" connect you to your children, your children to each other, and your family to the Church.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Customs for particular Feast Days and Seasons are as varied as the number of families and countries that exist. These customs touch on everything from prayers to food to things like Advent calendars, skulls made of sugar, and bonfires.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home During family devotions, "set the scene." Turn down the lights, burn incense, light candles, play sacred music when appropriate, etc. Use sensory cues to let everyone know that what will be done now is set apart and sacred. Of course, prayer throughout the day, aside from special sacred times, should be encouraged, too; our lives should be a prayer!
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Catholic children should be taught about our virtuous Saints! Give your children heroes, inspire their imaginations and feed their will to do good. They could be taught about the Saints as their Feast Days are celebrated throughout the Sanctoral Cycle, as the family's Name Days are celebrated, etc.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The family as a group should adopt a patron Saint for their home just as each particular church has its own patron and guardian angel (St. Joseph, patron of families, is a natural for this cause!). Some families, like some religious orders, choose a different patron each year on the Feast of the Epiphany.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Call on Saints who have patronage in various situations, such as sickness, traveling, etc. Hang an icon of St. Martha in your kitchen, an icon of St. Barbara for use during storms, etc. No matter what, the Church Triumphant should be experienced as being as real to your children as the Church Militant!
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home ...And the reality of the Church Suffering should be clear and relevant to them, too. Though we all have the hope that our dead family members are already in Heaven, it is possible that they are in Purgatory for a time. These dear ones should never be forgotten, and prayer for them should be a part of your children's lives. Praying the Blessing After Meals ensures that the souls of our dead ancestors are prayed for every time we eat.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Parents should also bless their children, at the least on the Lord’s Day. The traditional way of doing this is for the children to kneel and for the parent to either place his hands on the child's head and/or trace a Cross on the child's forehead while saying: May Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you, my child/children, for time and eternity, and may this blessing remain forever with you. Amen
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home St. Ambrose wrote of this practice: You may not be rich; you may be unable to bequeath any great possessions to your children; but one thing you can give them; the heritage of your blessing. And it is better to be blessed than to be rich.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home On a different level, Catholic homes should be filled with books, art, music, the necessary things to make crafts, etc. There should be plenty to feed the mind and heart, and to engage the body. A well-trained child should rarely speak of "boredom" or offer it as an excuse for getting into trouble or whining; he should learn to entertain himself, to imagine new games and to marvel at and learn about the world about him.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home Young children never hate to read and to learn! That comes later, after bad teachers who ignore the importance of phonics and don't know how to engage a child's interest make them feel stupid, and when television has robbed them of imagination and taught them to think in sound-bytes and quick-moving images. It is too much television that trains them to feel restless unless pounding music and rapid-fire motion are assaulting their senses.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home For the love of all that is holy, keep your children far away from the television, at least far from large doses of it (and, most certainly, far from programming that assaults basic Christian morals). A mellow-paced "Mr. Rogers" type show or a good movie never hurt anyone, but incessant quick-cuts, relentless soundtracks, commercials, etc., especially in large doses, are killers of the soul.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The other killer of the ability to marvel is the bored adult who's lost that ability himself. • Cynical teachers who hate what they do and treat children like inmates; • uncultured parents who haven't picked up a book in years; • Pharisaic parents who forget that the purpose of rules is to serve charity and who sap the joy out of a child's life with their drive for power, inane rules, and lack of humor; • older teenagers around them who do nothing but express angst -- if this is what your child sees, this is what he will model himself after.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home If you don't: read, draw, paint, play a musical instrument, embroider, knit, purl, tat, whittle, carve wood, dance, make furniture, build model airplanes, birdwatch, brew beer, ferment wine, stargaze, or make mosaics or learn foreign languages or shoot guns or camp or do archery garden, bake, work on cars, write stories, model in clay, fly kites, develop screenplays, play sports, collect something, walk in the woods, write poetry, learn about astronomy, etc. -- I think you get my point – then turn off the T.V., pick something, and begin now. If you've lost your child-like love of learning and sense of wonder, pray to regain it!
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home The growing child must also have the space, silence, and tools to marvel, "create" (as it were), think, and learn in addition to having his desire to do so unmolested by television and bad role modelling. Prepare a space where he can be a child.
The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home And on a final note, keep your sense of humor! Life is serious -- quite serious – but it is also wondrous and sometimes hysterically funny. If you are so stressed, so cynical, so rigorist or "educated" that you can't laugh, then something's got to give. Deal with it before you pass that dour trait on to your children or let it infect your marriage. Pray about it and talk to a spiritual director or other wise person. You will be happier and healthier, and so will your family.