Some thoughts inspired by Jennifer at Conversion Diary, who recently wrote about
creating a dedicated prayer space in the home and asked her readers:
Do any of you have a special place for prayer set aside in your homes? Any tips for getting creative to carve out a space like this in a bustling household?
Reading her questions reminded me that I’ve long been planning to write about my little kneeler that I got last May which has finally found a place in our home now that we’ve moved (until we bought the house it was sitting in the garage). I wrote about setting it up about a week after we moved in. And I wanted to write some follow-up reflections about how it is actually functioning in our home.
I’ve put the kneeler in a corner of the living room because that’s literally the only place in the house where it fits. i’d prefer it to be in our bedroom but there just isn’t space there. Coincidentally, it is on the east wall so kneeling on it one would be facing east. (Someone had mentioned in Jennifer’s comments that the traditional orientation for prayer for Christians is facing east.)
On the top of the kneeler I’ve put a small crucifix and a bunch of holy cards (mostly those I bought for Bella) and on the shelf I’ve put a few rosary books and other small pamphlet-sized prayer books as well as a rosary or two. (All these objects have a tendency to wander when Bella gets into them.)
I’d like to set up a table or shelf in front of the kneeler—right now it’s underneath a print of Mary Magdalene by Georges de la Tour—on which I can put a statue of Mary, some candles, a few icons and our collection of holy cards with relics. But I haven’t worked out the logistics of that yet.
I must confess that although having a kneeler and a dedicated prayer space sounded so nice in theory and I love looking at it, still I think I’ve actually knelt there to pray maybe twice since we moved in at the beginning of November. Though Bella does kneel there a bit more often to say a Hail Mary or just to look at all the cards. It’s a rather inaccessible corner because of the tight space and one has to almost climb over furniture to get at it.
When I pray it’s usually sitting in my bed, where I can look at a crucifix, a small icon of the Theotokos my sister brought me from Greece and a few other prints of the Madonna and Child. Or else in my easy chair in the living room, which is actually next to the prie-dieu.
I often feel guilty for not using my kneeler which I wanted for so long. But it is, as some of the commenters at Jennifer’s blog have noticed, a reminder to pray even if I don’t use it. And I am glad that it extends an invitation which Bella is inclined to accept. Even if I don’t use it much, perhaps it’s real purpose is to be a sign and symbol of the importance of setting aside space for prayer, space for God.
Several commenters mentioned that rather than set aside one space for prayer they preferred to put visual reminders in every room. I’ve also tried to do that as well, hanging my collection of crucifixes and religious art in such a way that no matter where I am in the house I’m confronted with Jesus and Mary and the saints. There’s a crucifix in every room but the bathroom and two or more in some rooms. Lots of images of Mary, including quite a few postcards I got at various places in Europe and have put into nice frames. Our entire house is our domestic church and I want it to feel that way, to be a place set aside for prayer. I am so glad that we were able to have our current and former pastors come to our housewarming last fall to bless our house and help us to make it into a sacred space.
It’s amazing, though, how surrounded by all these reminders I can still shut out God and forget to pray and lose my temper. I’m definitely a work in progress. The way I see it I need all the reminders I can get.