(All of the “Summer in the Little Oratory” posts can be found here.)
So this week’s Summer in the Little Oratory post is talking about chapter two, “The Family and the Home”.
This chapter has a lot of thoughts about the home as home–as a building–and what its purpose is for the person or people who live there. As such, I found this very interesting and definite food for thought. So let’s walk through some of the rooms, shall we?
(There’s a LOT here that deserves attention, so hang in with me!)
First, the authors stress the importance of family: that it is “the plan” that God has for us. Jesus was sent to earth to live in a family. Adam and Eve were commanded to create a family. A loving home is “a fundamental need embedded in our human nature…the community is human; it has bodily needs and those of the soul. This embodiment means, among othe things, that the family must have a place where it dwells, and that place is home (14).
The home is a sheltering place. It’s a place where everyone is “accepted for who he is rather than for what he does or what he contributes…at the same time, the family is uniquely situated to the development of the human person” (14) How do we develop? By love. Nourishing love. You see this in studies that show language delays and other developmental delays when babies aren’t talked to, or smiled at, or…just loved. “Families humbly living the mission of love…have the characteristics of creating a home.”
We don’t say “house sweet house” or “house is where the heart is.” It’s home is where the heart is; home sweet home. The building itself can be just about anything, but it’s the people that make a house a home. No matter how cliche we think it is–it’s true.
“In a home” he authors continue, “the family–simply as a function of what the family is, as instituted by God at the beginning of creation–has two utterly important roles: to be a school of virtue and a domestic church.” (16) A child can “really learn virtue only in a setting where he can be nurtured and corrected by those who are simultaneously struggling themselves to grow and virtue and can treat him with the warm affection only family bonds can supply.” (16)
Parents, whether you home school or not, you are your children’s first, and most important teacher. As a CCD teacher, I can tell my kids how important it is to go to Mass, to pray, to be reverent in church, to follow the 10 commandments. But if you don’t teach them that–then I’m a clanging gong, as St. Paul might say. You are their first teachers and examples!
So, we see how important that home is–how important the family is. Even if your family is one person, or your “home” is one person (my parents live nearby, so it’s not like I’m entirely alone. We just don’t live together.) For other singles, like me, the authors say that “the physical space…must be more than a utilitarian environment in which you go about the business of daily life, taking care of basic needs. You can make it beautiful and warm, practicing hospitality. A single person is encourage to have a little oratory! A single parent is encouraged to have a little oratory!” (19) A single person should “take care to make his home a warm, inviting place where community can form….[and] should also consider the vocation of being of service to a family.” (19)
(So see, families, I’m not out of the loop, either!)
In short: the family is the home, it is the first school of virtue for children, and it is the domestic church. Our homes should be beautiful, inviting places for ourselves and our guests. By “beautiful” I (and the authors!) don’t mean it has to look like a House Beautiful spread. We’re not trying to be Marie Barone and cover the couches with plastic!
“Beauty” is seen in nature, in classic works of art (like below) , (most) music (especially chant, which the authors note, and folk music), good literature, etcetera. It’s all around us, and if you have children, you want to make sure they know what beauty is!
Degas, “Blue Dancers”
Whew! That’s a lot to think about!
(Take a break if you need one. Then come back!)
So now what? We want beautiful homes that also are the domestic church and teach virtue to those who dwell there and provide hospitality and also aren’t a falling apart wreck that we’re ashamed to show people!
So how do we get there?!
Fear not! The authors have ideas!
- Each room in the house needs to reflect its functionality and the taste of the inhabitants. So, since we’re Christians, that would mean “reflecting our belief and devotion in every room”, but tastefully. That doesn’t mean having a bunch of things hung slip-shod.
- Shelves enhance almost any room and area in a home
- Master Bedroom: Should never be made a repository for laundry, boxes and other detritus. “It should reflect the importance of the marital bond with its neatness and well tended, serene atmosphere.” (24) I know, this is a work in progress for some folks. Right now there’s a pile of clothes on the trunk in front of my bed, for example….. 🙂 The room might have “a crucifix over the bed…[a]n image of Our Lady, a bottle of Holy Water, and a prie-dieu.” (Catholic Churches always have a place you can get holy water, usually in the vestibule. My parents used to keep it in a Rubbermade bottle in their bedroom for our home holy water fonts. You don’t need some fancy glass cruet.)
- Living area: The authors strongly discourage orienting the room toward the TV. I agree with this–sadly, my house set up sort of does this, but my TV is small and it’s on top of a bookshelf, so, you know. (Also, this is me here, but do we REALLY need TVs in every single room of the house?! Research tells us that TVs in the bedroom are a bad idea and also, should kids really be allowed to watch TV unsupervised? I didn’t have a TV in my room until I was home from college, and even then it was because there was no place else to put it without worrying about someone bashing a hockey puck or a roller skate into it. Peeps–limit the TVs in your house. You don’t need one in every room, or even on every floor. Trust me on this.) Your living room should be oriented to conversation, and yes, possibly the TV, if you like to watch sports together, or movies, or whatever. There should be good lighting, comfortable seating, photos, pictures and family items grouped together for interest, and of course, some religious objects! 🙂 In my family/living area, I have a crucifix my friends brought my from Germany, several saint plaques, DaVinci’s Last Supper, and my prayer table.
Saints: (l-r) St. Martha, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Mary Magdalene
- Kitchen: Plate racks and hutches are recommended for storage. A mantle or sideboard can be “a place to display a religious object or a votive candle.” On my side board I have the Divine Mercy image.
Divine Mercy on the sideboard (with tea 🙂 )
- Other places: Each place “has its own function and orderliness appropriate thereto.” (27)
We have all these ideas. (That doesn’t mean you’re making a weekend trip to Home Depot or IKEA, though!) What about the Little Oratory? “Where does it fit into the setting up of the home?” (27)
The CCC says, “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.” (2691)
Find a spot in the natural flow of the home that isn’t easily overlooked, but won’t be trampled, either. Think about the flow of your home. The authors suggest the mantle as one possible place, and note that it might take some time in experimentation until the “best” location is found.
But, “Once you’ve chosen a fitting place for your home altar, you can think about what goes on and above (and even under) it, and this is what we will discuss in the next chapter.” (29)