One evening, just a few weeks ago, my husband was deeply inspired to create a family oratory
and informed me that he had ordered a bronze, Benedictine altar crucifix, an incense boat with a supply of frankincense, an icon for each of our children’s namesakes (baby #7 is on the way), and was on the hunt for multiple pieces of Catholic art. My first reaction was, of course: “Wow, he’s such a great spiritual leader for our family!” But then a more logistically-oriented reaction set in and I thought: “Where on earth are we going to put all of this?”
My husband and I built our forever home about a year ago, and in addition to the typical
kitchen, living room, dining room, etc. on the main floor, my dream had always been to have a first-floor playroom and an entire room dedicated solely to our homeschooling. I was thrilled to have these designated spaces in our new home that provided so much function for my life, so you can imagine my slight hesitation when my husband proposed converting our school room into the prayer room.
I thought long and hard about alternative spaces to suggest, but every suggestion seemed to come up short. So, a few days later, we moved all of our school-related furniture, books, charts, and materials into our playroom to create a combined school/play area and transformed our front room into a prayer room.
My vision for the space was to create a calm and peaceful environment where one could sit in
silence, surrounded by works of art that both inspire and draw you deeper into God’s love. I wanted it to be a room set apart; a place that would feel different from the other rooms in our home. Most importantly, I wanted it to be accessible, with doors wide open, for our children to enter at any time of day, whenever they pleased.
Our ultimate goal in creating the space is to make prayer and taking the time to pray more commonplace in our family’s everyday life.
Now, of course, this calm and peaceful environment was my “perfect” vision for the space, but with twin six-year-olds, a four-year-old, three-year-old, two-year-old, and almost one-year-old, the room is often far from peaceful. However, I try to remind myself that this is not the goal of the prayer room, at least not while we still have so many little ones.
Our ultimate goal in creating the space is to make prayer, and taking the time to pray, more commonplace in our family’s everyday life. It is often easy to get caught up in the chaos of the day and let a whole day pass without taking the time to stop and pray. However, with the prayer room on the main floor of our home, right in the midst of everything we do, it becomes impossible to ignore Our Lord’s gentle call to prayer; and the wide open doors of the room seem reminiscent of Our Lord, arms wide open, calling us every moment of every day to draw deeper into His loving embrace.
We hope the prominent location of the prayer room places prayer on the hearts and minds of our children as they go about their day, and that it serves as a constant reminder to turn to Our Lord in everything they do.
With the prayer room on the main floor of our home, right in the midst of everything we do, it becomes impossible to ignore Our Lord’s gentle call to prayer; and the wide open doors of the room seem reminiscent of Our Lord, arms wide open, calling us every moment of every day to draw deeper into His loving embrace.
On the main wall in the prayer room, we created our family oratory, which has become the focal
point of the space. I used an old console that my husband and I bought when we first got married, and I repainted it and changed out the hardware to make it feel new. On top of the oratory, we placed our Benedictine altar cross in the center, flanked by brass candlesticks, the incense boat, and our Bibles and other prayer books. In a basket on the bottom shelf of the console, I put the kids’ prayer books and Mass books so that they can easily reach them and pull them out to read whenever they like.
On the wall above the oratory, we created a gallery of art that was meaningful to our family. The Visitation is my favorite decade of the Rosary, and it just so happens to be celebrated on my and my husband’s anniversary, so we included a large print depicting this beautiful moment between Mary and Elizabeth.
Additionally, my husband and I developed a very deep devotion to the Divine Mercy when we found out at 18 weeks gestation that our twins would pass away any day. After countless Divine Mercy novenas, our twins miraculously survived, and since then we have been strongly devoted to the Divine Mercy.
We also knew we wanted to incorporate a very large piece of art above our piano that would be meaningful and would serve as a piece of reflection for ourselves and for our children. We chose The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Rembrandt, not only because of the richness and beauty of the piece itself, but because of the depth in meaning it portrays from this event in the Bible and how it relates to our personal lives.
All the other pieces of art in the room were chosen because of their special meaning to our family, and we plan to add to our gallery wall over time as our family continues to grow and as we
find pieces that reflect our family and our family’s devotions.
Across from the oratory, we put a loveseat in front of the windows so that there is a place to sit or to lie comfortably and read, or to simply be in God’s presence; and we added a kneeler (and will likely add more in the future) for moments of personal prayer. The prayer room has become the place we gather in the mornings to “say hello to Jesus,” as our children refer to it, and the place we gather in the evenings to pray a decade of the Rosary, thank Jesus for the day, and offer up our intentions.
We try to make our evening prayer time, in particular, feel special by lighting candles and burning incense for its duration. Even these two small gestures seem to help the kids focus more and to recognize the importance of what we are doing. My four-year-old told me the other day that his “throat was sore from praying so much,” and while this is certainly an exaggeration of the amount of time we spend in prayer each day, his innocent comment seems to demonstrate that the kids recognize the change, even if they don’t fully understand its importance yet.
I realize not everyone has the ability to turn an entire room into a room for prayer; but this is
certainly not the point. Find a designated place on your main floor, right in the midst of where the most chaos unfolds in your life, and I guarantee you will find yourself drawn more to prayer throughout the day.
Look for a wall along which you could place a family oratory, or clear a shelf on a bookcase or hutch in your living or dining room. If you don’t have the floor space for an extra piece of furniture to be used as an oratory, simply hang a crucifix in a prominent location on the wall and surround it with art and icons that are meaningful to you and your family.
Find a designated place on your main floor, right in the midst of where the most chaos unfolds in your life, and I guarantee you will find yourself drawn more to prayer throughout the day.
Additionally, add a kneeler or even just a few pillows upon which to sit or kneel, and place a basket or crate in the designated prayer area to fill with picture books about the saints, a children’s Bible, saint peg dolls, and any other religious items your children may enjoy. Make this the place you gather as a family, light some candles in the evening if you are able, and encourage your children daily to “stop by” the prayer space and say hello to Jesus, ask for His help, and express their love for Him.
We live in a time when it is more important than ever to equip our children with the tools they
need to combat the temptations of the world and to live their lives as witnesses of Christ. And while a designated prayer space does not guarantee our children will achieve the ultimate goal of sainthood, encouraging prayer as an integral part of their daily lives is certainly a step in the right direction.
Here’s where Sarah found the religious art and items for this space:
Wall paint color is Sherwin Williams Homburg Grey.