Catholic Home - Stop, gaze and pray

Easter prayer space. Photo: Janis Olson Easter prayer space. Photo: Janis Olson

Create a special place at home that invites you to make some time for God

I couldn’t leave the beautiful, soft purple wool behind at the thrift store. I didn’t know what I would make with it, but it was nicer than anything I knew I’d find at the local fabric store chain, so I brought it home.

Not long after, I found the perfect use for the purple fabric — as an “altar cloth” in our family prayer space during Lent and Advent.

I was looking for a way to connect the church’s liturgical calendar to our daily family lives, so that our children could understand and feel its rhythms and be aware of the church season each day.

This was the perfect solution.

I got sewing, using fabric in the main liturgical colors of green (ordinary time), purple (Advent and Lent) and white (Christmas and Easter), so we would have cloths for all the seasons of the faith. All these years later, the purple wool ones are still my favorite.

Having a family prayer space has been integral to our family faith life. Located in the entryway of our home, it’s the spot where we gather all year, from prayers around the Advent wreath and Stations of the Cross during Lent, to family and individual prayers and reflection.

prayer space
Ordinary Time prayer space. Photo: Janis Olson

The centerpiece of our space is an icon of Jesus as Christ the Teacher. During Lent, we switch it out for a carving of the suffering, thorn-crowned Christ. An image of Mary sits at his right hand, and a large white candle is on his left. The Bible and the Roman Missal are there, often open to a particular page.

To these basics, we add other items: a holy water bowl, a censer for burning incense, the Liber Usualis (Gregorian chant for every Mass of the year). We’ve recently added an icon from the Middle East of Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Underneath it all lies a cloth of green, purple or white (on Good Friday and Pentecost, we sometimes use a red cloth; on Good Friday, we cover any images of Jesus with cloths of red and black).

We teach our children more than what liturgical season we’re in; we highlight feast days of our favorite saints by adding images of them to the display. During Advent, we bring out the O Antiphons, and on All Souls’ Day, we add photos of our deceased relatives, sometimes with a black cloth.

We display items the children made in faith formation classes, projects they’ve made at home, and other items from important events that happen throughout the year, like funerals or special holy days.

Our prayer space entices and invites us to stop amidst our busyness and tell God we love him, to maybe pray the day’s Collect, or call upon a heavenly friend for help and support. On Saturday evenings, we light the large candle to signify it’s time to start orienting our thoughts toward Mass the following morning. All day Sunday, we keep it lit, and end the day with a rosary.

Having our family prayer space in a central spot has not only provided multiple occasions for us to stop, gaze and pray, it reminds us of what is important in life. But it has also had a surprising benefit.

Because it is in the entryway, anyone who comes to the front door sees it first thing.

It has been an evangelization opportunity for guests and repairmen alike, sparking many wonderful conversations. And when door-to-door proselytizers come calling, there is Jesus, looking at all of us, ready to be talked about as both true God and true man.

The Easter season is a perfect time to create a special place for prayer in your home. Operi Dei nihil praeponatur! (Let nothing be preferred to the work of God!) 

Lent prayer spaceLent prayer space. Photo: Janis Olson

Prayer space basics

A prayer space in your home can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Get started with these suggested items:
- Cloths in liturgical colors (green, purple, white, gold, red). If you don’t sew, use tablecloths, placemats or scarves.
- Crucifix or image of Jesus
- Bible
- Religious texts: Roman Missal, writings of saints, Divine Office
- Image of Mary
- Rosaries
- Holy water font
- Saint statue or image
- Seasonal natural items: palm branches, Easter lilies, roses, poinsettias
- Incense/censer
- Holy cards
- Favorite Scripture verse

Northwest Catholic - April 2018

Michelle Bruno

Michelle Bruno is a member of Kent’s Holy Spirit Parish. Contact her at