Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Creating a Home Altar.

We often (and for the past 4-5 years) have used our piano bench as a teaching spot. Not only does it seat my kids for piano practice, but it has served as a make-shift altar for when they play Mass. In the bench they store an altar cloth, a little missal, and other small necessities used to play Mass. And every time I hear the kids say "OK...I'm going to be the priest today. Let's go play," I start daydreaming about finally having the perfect little altar in our home.

Now that we are mostly settled in our new home, I've decided to just do it!! Visions in my mind abound with the many home altars I've seen, especially those found in Mexico. Since we moved in, I've been using our entry table from our previous home to house some statues, rosaries, and holy water.

As you can barely see, there is a drawer that holds prayer cards, a rosary booklet, and some rosaries. What the table is missing is a little table cloth to coincide with the liturgical season, a bible, and perhaps a candle.

Now when we do our morning rosary and offering, we are usually upstairs in the school room. It's a great start to our school day and the room is sunny, bright, and uplifting. Not only do we do our morning prayers in our school room, but we often read our Bible there before bedtime. So my new goal is to create an altar in our school room.

After searching for images of home altars, I have come to one important conclusion. Home altars vary from home to home and anything from family photos to holy cards can be placed on them. Home altars aren't usually fancy and any table, bookcase, or space will do. It's really what works for your family.

When thinking "What's going to work for us?" I came up with a list of things that I absolutely wanted in our altar prayer space.
  1. An interactive space. I wanted something that can be a hands-on area. A place where the kids can feel that they can come to and touch things.
  2. I want to be inspired and I want the kids to be inspired. Sometimes looking at something beautiful or hearing beautiful music, inspires us to think about God.
  3. A learning space. Some books are usually left unnoticed unless I take them out. Perhaps highlighting a saint's book on the altar or prayer space would encourage a child to ask about it or read it.
  4. A showcase. An altar with room to display what the kids are learning about in saint and religious studies, as well as crafts dedicated to our beautiful Catholic faith.
  5. Flexibility. I want to be able to switch things around easily.
Not too difficult of a list, is it? Well, after rearranging books, finding appropriate art, and visualizing where things should go...our altar is complete!! Lucky for me that I have lots of pretty frames of Jesus and Our Lady to choose from as well as a number of holy statues; all of which I plan to rotate.

So following is a little "tour" of our new school room Catholic altar, complete with picture by picture descriptions!!

I decided to go with what I had and used two bookcases for our altar. All the books seen here pertain to our Catholic faith, lives of the saints, etc. The area is in a little corner by the window and offers lots of natural light. Also, if you notice that I'm keeping the altar cloths to go in conjunction with the liturgical season...these are just pretty napkins that I was able to get of all the liturgical colors (mine are from Pier 1 Imports).

A picture of what's on top of our home altar.

And a close up.

To the left I decided to hang the kids' rosaries and put a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. I thought this was perfect because it has the three children (Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta) kneeling before her. A great example to any child.

In the center I placed the kids' bible. Behind the Bible there is a makeshift altar upon which our crucifix is and our "Father Nick"is on the side. This is part of the interactive part of our altar in which the kids can change the liturgical colors on the priest paper-doll, as well as on the little white altar. Currently we have green for ordinary time. And it's nothing fancy either. The altar is a small box covered with white paper and the "altar cloth" is actually a piece of construction paper.

On the right side, I hung our St. Michael holy water font. I also have our saints book, "Saints, A Year in Faith and Art." This book features a saint for every day of the year. The glass container is like a prayer jar. Every time we pray together, like the rosary, we take out all the little papers from the glass container. Each paper has an intention for us to pray for. It might be something like an end to abortion, a prayer for a family member or friend, or for any other intentions we come up with. This is an excellent way to teach your children how to pray for others and it keeps us from forgetting someone or something that we meant to pray for. Also notice that the kids have put their cootie catchers there too.

Above it all is a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This particular piece of art was a gift from my mom about 10 years ago. She got it in Mexico and I have always loved it. In the future I plan to rotate with other religious art that I have, perhaps to coordinate with the liturgical year.

I thought I would post a picture of this too. It's the book cases I use for our little home altar. I keep all our children's religious books here. From lives of the saints, to Catholic homeschool resources. It's a place where the kids (or I) can go to get a book and be uplifted.

The top-most shelves are for the sole purpose of the kids. On the left I keep a pretty picture of Our Lady, a candle for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and two books that I pick out for the kids to read to themselves or for me to read aloud. Currently we have "For the Children" and "Once Upon a Time Saints" (laying on the shelf). These books will also be rotated with others.

On the right side, I keep a bin full of rosary books, liturgical vestments for our priest paper-doll, napkins in the liturgical colors to cover our altar, construction paper for the little paper altar, our prayer wheel, and other little things for the kids to play with and do. I will be taking paper activities from our liturgical box to keep this somewhat stocked.

And that concludes the tour of our new school room, home altar. I love it and it works for our family's needs. From being interactive and inspirational, to being a great learning space with flexibility. I'm sure that as time passes, this space will evolve and continue to change along with our needs.


Laura O said...

What an incredible space you've created! We are on a quest in our house to obtain a few statues and pictures to have the house reflect our Catholic faith.
Reading your post has me thinking about where we could put a home altar and what we can use. Now to find the time to make it happen!

Gardenia said...

beautiful, and so holy. I love the Father Nick -- and now I think I will get him because he goes so perfectly on a home altar. Your books are wonderful too. We have the "Saints: a year in faith and art" and enjoy it. I'll have to check out the other links to some of your other books. thanks for sharing.

Liz said...

Thanks Laura and Gardenia! I've been so excited every time we go to our little altar and the kids love it too! Wish I would have done this a long time ago!

Rosario said...

very nice. I like your idea. I have little altars all over the house. My big altar is in the living room. I have another one near the back entrance to the house, and each bedroom has their small altar.

Michelle said...

Nice! We put up our home altar a few months ago. We wound up doing a floating shelf by our kitchen table. It's got a crucifix mounted above it and we have picture cards and holy water on display.

To keep our liturgical colors, I purchased a clear glass vase and glass marbles/flower sprigs/candles in red, green, white, purple, and blue. We've also got an incense holder and I purchased some Roman incense online.

We light our candle every night at dinner time and on Sundays and holy days we light an incense stick. It's nice having a special space at home!

Xhonane Olivas said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing your beautiful home altar Liz! You did a great job! I will post ideas for home altars and I would like to show yours! : )

Liz said...

Thanks for your wonderful comments everyone! I love seeing and reading about how others keep their altars too.

Xhonane, thanks! I'm always happy if I can give anyone an idea!


Anonymous said...

Liz - I was browsing the web looking for pix of Guadalupe home altars and came across your site. I love the idea of the bookcase and also incorporating other images of Our Lady such as Fatima. What a wonderful example you are setting for your children. They are learning to associate time spent with God with beauty, creativity, learning, family, and love. What a rich heritage you are giving your little ones!

God bless you, Godly mother.

And Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Who is "Our Lady of Fatima"? Why is she on an altar?

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