Monday 31 May 2010

End of Our Lady's month of May

Today many Catholic Anglicans will be risking their linen suits on the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham. I really wish that I could go at least once in life, if only for the pilgrimage Mass on the site of the old Abbey. One year.

Well, I thought I would share with readers how I'm marking the last day of Mary's month of May. The picture above is of my home altar. This is not an altar, as people sometimes imagine from the name, where Mass can be said. Rather a "home altar" is a wonderful Catholic tradition which creates a focus of prayer and reflection within the home; a place where one can express personal and religious creativity. It is an altar in the sense that the experience of the Sacred goes in both directions. On the one hand it is a "dwelling place" of Holiness, where God's glory is told in images of His Saints and in the Crucifix. On the other hand, it is the place where "sacrifices" of prayer are made, represented by material offerings of flowers, oil lamps, candles and incense.

My home altar started life as a St. Joseph's altar to celebrate my name day, but it has survived through year and has been reconfigured monthly. The altar is three-tiered to represent the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family. The principal image of the month is displayed on the top tier, this month is it Our Lady of Candelaria. In front of Her on the tier below are three small oil lamps, two of which burn for specific intentions, the central one is kept lit whenever I am at home. Beside the lamps are two metallic icons from the Holy Land reflecting the principal patronage of Our Lady and S. George, and which remind me to pray for peace in the Middle East. The tier below features images of my other patrons, S. Joseph, S. Gerard, S. Magnus, each one reminding me to pray for specific intentions, for my parish and for pregnant women or new mothers. The right hand corner of this tier is dedicated to prayer for the dead, and besides a picture of a deceased relative, normally features a book of prayers for the Suffering Souls. The left hand side of this tier reminds me of spiritual discipline. It is where I keep my rosary (from the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham) and recently features an image of whichever Saint I am remembering who isn't the principle Saint of the month. In this case I'm remembering to thank Venerable Jose Gregorio Hernandez (a Venezuelan doctor who died in 1919 and was beatified in 1949), for prayers for recovery from a recent illness.

Anyway, I hope my little home altar encourages other people to take up the tradition. For some tips and more information check out this article on the Domestic Church, which gives some good background and ideas for bringing holiness into the home.


  1. Beautiful - thanks for sharing this.

  2. Very inspirational! I will have to look into making one for myself at home.

  3. Inspired by our esteemed blog-meister’s posting about home altars, I recently got around to setting up one at last.

    For anyone interested, here’s my modest attempt so far:

    It’s in a corner of my bedroom near the bed. Since I already pray by my bedside it was an ideal spot (except that it does not face east as recommended, but that is unfortunately how the layout of my room is). Anyways, the altar was formerly a nightstand and it was adaptable for my needs. At about 2 feet high, the table is a good height for kneeling comfortably at, and for resting a devotional book upon while reading or reciting from it - my ersatz prie dieu.

    My altar is built up in 3 levels as suggested: flowers and a statue of Our Lord on the top, some prayer cards (hidden) on the second, and everything else on the third. The lowest tier includes candles, a missal, the book ‘The Young Man’s Guide – Counsels, Reflections, and Prayers for Catholic Young Men’ by Rev. F. X. Lasance (yep, some of the text is pretty quaint – it was originally published in 1910 – but it still gives excellent instruction on living the Faith correctly), a rosary, some cards (Our Saviour crucified, and St. Francis of Assisi to whom I’ve a special devotion to; during my college years I was seriously contemplating a religious life and many times looked to the venerable Saint for direction), photographs reminding me to pray for certain individuals, and a coffer with some devotional objects inside (a portrait miniature of Charles Stuart the Martyr King, scapulars, medals, jewelry, and so forth). Lastly, in the center is Duccio’s painting ‘The Maesta’ showing Our Lady attended by various Saints. Currently, the image is in a large book, which takes up a lot of space. Hence, I plan to make a copy of it and mount it on card for display instead.

    I’m grateful to our blogger for the inspiration. Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of quickly mumbled Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Confiteors, etc. at times, but having a personal altar to properly direct my prayers to now is ridding me of my poor habit. One can’t help but worship with a deeper reverence and fervour.

    Well, thanks again for encouraging us in this endeavor.