The Prayer Corner

There is one Catholic practice that seems to have diminished in the last generation which I lament. It's the practice of erecting a small table or area in one's home that has a 'shrine-like' quality. Some call it an 'altar table' or 'a prayer corner'; but it's simply a reserved place where one collects statues and sacramentals that bring attention to God; his saints and his church. Back in the 'days of faith' (meaning my childhood) I often saw this in the homes of faithful Catholics we visited. Though less common, the truly devout might even have a kneeler present for recitation of the rosary.

The point of this area is to call attention to our faith and to have a space that is reserved as holy. In some sense this area marks the home distinctly as a place of faith, and it 'offers' a perpetual prayer by virtue of its purpose and content. For the person of active faith it's an area to go to in times of turmoil, or even to simply say 'thank you' to the Lord. In a rather loose sense it is the 'sanctuary' of the Domestic Church, our home.

The family simply places statues, artifacts and sacramentals that have meaning and purpose in their life of faith. A rosary, scapula, pieces of palm, prayer cards for loved ones, and of course, statues of favorite patron saints (Mary is an absolute necessity). Whether the statues match in quality, style or size is of little importance. The Crucifixes, icons, vigil candles, all represent the presence of the Holy: what better place to leave prayer intentions and supplications.

Perhaps the home 'prayer corner' or 'altar table' is THE ideal place to leave our daily worries, concerns and supplications. (I will explain further in my next post). Whenever I receive a prayer request from a friend, or even a plea over the Internet, I simply write the request down and place it at 'the altar table'. Returning from a funeral or wake I place the prayer card of the decedent along with others who have gone before me.

I feel this 'prayer corner' reflects our life's priorities and is a simple and humble acknowledgement to God of our gratitude. It's a chance to 'sacrifice' some space and bend our rules about matching home d├ęcor, in order to reflect God's presence. We will occasionally be thought of as 'religious fanatics' with such a demonstration of our Catholic Faith, but even joyfully bearing that mild persecution brings with it untold blessings. As with much of our Catholic faith, I often need a physical reminder of that which is truly spiritual.

(P.S., While reviewing the Catechism on an entirely different matter I stumbled across this passage):

Places favorable for prayer- [...] --For personal prayer, this can be a "prayer corner" with the Sacred Scriptures and icons, in order to be there, in secret, before our Father. In a Christian family, this kind of little oratory fosters prayer in common. [excerpted from CCC 2691].

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4 comments:

Anne Marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anne Marie said...

Oops, I had a typo in the original comment.

Thanks for this post. I'm working up a post about an item I just placed in my home's rosary room which is our prayer corner. I will link to this post when I get it done.

Jenny said...

Or "sacred space," as the director of our catechetics program affectionately terms them...

It's such a beautiful and tangible practice that keeps our loved ones (the saints) in the front of our minds and hearts. Great post.

Rubi said...

As one of Mexican background, we call this our "altarcito," basically, a little home altar.

Mine is on the grand piano in our living room. I'm a pastoral musician and so this area is really sacred for me personally.

Honestly, I don't see how I could call it "home" with my little altarcito. . .the central point being an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that once belonged to my grandmother. It's just too central, too important!

Thanks for the post!