I’d been dreaming of creating this little oratory for family prayer since before I got married. Now, it helps us to pray together as a family every day. Here’s what I did to put it together.
by Stephanie Kung
This article originally appeared in Bluebird Songs.
A few years ago I was given David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler’s book, The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home. At the time my oldest child was still a baby and my husband and I had not yet figured out how to best incorporate prayer into our daily family life, but I was longing to improve in that department. I failed to read the entire book all the way through (because hi, I had a young baby), but simply having it on our bookshelf after reading bits and pieces (and packing and unpacking it for a bunch of moves) helped me hold on tight to – and better solidify – my vision for our family’s future prayer space within our home.
Truth be told, we didn’t begin any consistent “family prayer” time beyond saying grace before meals until my oldest child was about 18 months old. Since then, we have managed to incorporate family prayer into our children’s nightly bedtime routine but it wasn’t until we settled into our house that I was finally able to create the little oratory I had been dreaming of since before Michael and I even tied the knot!
Without further ado, here is what our family’s little oratory looks like:
My basic goal was to have some religious icons or paintings displayed above a little table on which we can place votive candles, prayer cards, religious images or statues, and liturgically-themed items that we can swap out according to the appropriate liturgical season.
Additionally, I wanted some storage space (either baskets or drawers) so that we can keep extra prayer materials gathered in one easy-to-find space. I use each drawer for a different purpose, but they contain things like rosaries and chaplets, small prayer books or pamphlets, baptism and Advent candles, and religious things geared specifically toward the kids.
Finding the right spot proved to be a simple task once we knew the layout of our new house; my husband and I quickly agreed that the prayer space needed to be in our living room. There are some other spots it would look nice, but we wanted it to be somewhere functional so that we constantly see it and can be reminded to pray. Our aim was to find a prominent spot in the house that we regularly see but isn’t completely “in your face” for visitors or guests. With that criteria in mind we quickly found the perfect spot in the far corner of our living room.
I also wanted our prayer space to be accessible to the kids, so I made sure to choose a table that wasn’t too tall, but just tall enough to make it hard for kids ages 2 and under to grab anything fragile…. 😉
I think prayer cards are a great (inexpensive and virtually indestructible!) way to include little ones in prayer and/or introduce them to religious images or Saints, so I bought a little wooden box to hold all our random prayer cards while keeping them visible and reachable.
Many of the religious items on display change with liturgical seasons, feast days, or whatever special intentions we are focusing on praying for, but the 2 current staples that always remain are things the kids can be really hands on with: the box of prayer cards and the little “priest” that we dress in the appropriate liturgical vestments for the day or season. Peter is still too young to fully comprehend this concept, but Gabriel named our priest Father Gordon (yes, like the express engine from Thomas & Friends) and eagerly dresses him every Sunday morning and/or on special feast days (my older sister is entirely to thank for making us the priest and vestment set; she wrote a tutorial on her blog about vestment symbolism for kids in case any of you feel like crafting something similar!).
Not only has this prayer space been something fun to regularly redecorate, but more importantly it has actually reminded me to pay better attention to some of the many feast days within the Church and/or pray more often (and to lead my children in doing so).
Eventually I added a burlap table runner to prevent table scratches and/or help cushion anything fragile that might get picked up or knocked over by my toddler boys. It could benefit from some ironing (as evidenced below), but it makes a great addition in terms of making me less nervous about kids grabbing everything (which of course does happen from time to time since that’s one of the main purposes of creating the space to begin with).
This is what it currently looks like as I focus on praying for our daughter through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Gerard, and St. Gianna. Just looking at it makes me feel incredibly blessed, because many of the current focal points have been given to me by friends once they learned about our baby girl’s diagnosis.
Previously I didn’t have anything related to St. Gianna or St. Gerard, and now our little oratory contains relics of them both(!) – in the prayer card front and center and wrapped up in the golden cross of the pink ribbon tied around the OLG candle. These precious holy items are tangible reminders that we do not have to carry all our crosses alone, for not only do we have Saints in heaven praying for us, but we are blessed with people here on earth that are ready to shower us with love if we will only accept it.
It took time for me to share about this pregnancy experience on the blog and my husband and I seriously questioned whether or not we ever should – but I’m so grateful that we did. Neither my husband nor I like to ask for help or feel like a burden to others, but through this experience the Lord is teaching us that sometimes the real burden is to NOT ask for support or help when you need it the most.
So, if you can offer up some prayers for our baby girl I would greatly appreciate it – and please let me know how I can be praying for you, too!
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts.”
-Saint Teresa of Calcutta