Looking for a beautiful way to integrate the lives of the saints into your family? The Koop family created a beautiful display for their foyer that integrates photos of modern saints with pictures of their family. Here’s how they use this unique display to stay focused on their mission of growing in holiness.
by Heidi Indahl
I love all of our Catholic liturgical feasts and celebrations, and I especially love seeing some of the neat things that friends and family do to celebrate. My friend Molly has a unique and beautiful display in the entry to their home that is all the more impressive when she explains its meaning and how their family integrates it into their liturgical celebrations. She was gracious enough to agree to an interview about this cool saints-in-the-house practice with Peanut Butter & Grace readers.
Can you share a little bit about your family for Peanut Butter & Grace readers?
Brendan and I have been married for fourteen years. We have seven children on earth and four souls in heaven. We’re a homeschooling family living in Ham Lake, Minnesota.
Peanut Butter and Grace is all about family-based faith formation. Your family has a unique way of involving the saints in your daily life. Can you share a photo with us and a little background?
We created a display of saints from the modern era for our main foyer. The images of the saints are in black and white and our family (bottom row) is in color. It’s a reminder that we are all called to be saints and that those saints who have gone before us are an integral part of our family, interceding for us! Also included in our row of immediate family members is a black and white photograph of the infant son we lost in 2008. He, too, is among the saints in heaven! Unifying the display is a large image of the crucifix of San Damiano.
We wanted this display to be the first thing people saw when they walked into our home because it declares very boldly our family mission to grow in heroic virtue and become saints! We have had the most wonderful conversations with guests in our home. It’s a perfect tool for witnessing our Faith!
Tell us more about the saints and other images that you and your husband chose for the display.
There are so many wonderful saints in our tradition to choose from! We decided to represent only saints who have an actual photograph because we felt they would be most relatable for our children. By extension, our display includes only saints from the modern era.
We’re used to beautiful images of saints with idealized proportions and golden halos, and while those images have great importance, meditating on a photograph of a person who lived a life of virtue here on earth, who is now in heaven, has great spiritual value. We chose a variety of canonized saints, beatified, and venerable men and women. We have priests, religious, single persons, a married couple, missionaries, converts, and even children. God calls each of us to be a saint!
I often stand by the photographs and just stare into their eyes. There I can see their humanity, their sufferings, their joys and the outpouring of grace.
How do you incorporate the display throughout the liturgical year?
On the particular feast day of these saints, we light a candle in front of his or her photograph and have our family prayer there in the foyer. Our greatest prayer in this area of our home is of course on the Feast of All Saints! We light all of the candles and sing the Litany of Saints together. It’s quite moving for all of us. There is a very real sense of unity between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. And for me personally, looking into the eyes of these holy men and women and asking for their intercession is a powerful experience and great blessing.
When we first created the display, Pope John Paul II was recognized as Venerable, but over time he has been beatified and canonized. Blesseds Zélie and Louis Martin were recently canonized as well. These occasions gave us another reason to celebrate with the saints and recognize them in a special way!
How much time and money went into creating this project?
There are many ways to create something like this, but we enjoy minimalistic and modern design, especially if it’s inexpensive. We used $3 shelves from Ikea and supported them with brackets which were $4 each, also from Ikea. The frames are 5×7 plastic frames from Walmart costing only a dollar. My husband is the master-mind behind most of the display and put the work into aligning the shelves. Perhaps my favorite part of the design is that he screwed the frames into the shelves! So, the frames are always straight and secure! (We’ve had two incidents with a boy and a ball breaking a frame, but it was easily solved with a new inexpensive frame.) 🙂
All of the images chosen are public domain on the internet. We printed them with a high-quality printer. It’s always an exciting moment when a new baby blesses our family! This also means we have an opportunity to update the family photographs and add the new baby to the family line-up. It’s getting crowded on the bottom row, so we’ve started using photos of two children together if necessary.
Anything else you want to add?
When we first created the display, there was of course a period of time when we had to teach our children about the lives of these saints. We had an opportunity in our homeschool co-op that year to create a “Modern Saints Challenge.” We had a booklet with a photograph of these saints and a few others and listed a few important facts about each one. The kids really enjoyed it and it gave us all a chance to get to know some of these holy men and women in a deeper way. This also gave us an opportunity to include some other saints in the modern era who aren’t on our display at home.
Now, when people come to visit, the kids can tell a little something about each saint. Sometimes people like to try to guess the saints or quiz the kids. It helps to have a couple really recognizable faces in there, like Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Saint John Paul II.
Thank you, Molly, for sharing such a great idea with us!