Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Family Altar

I've been thinking about a family altar since we moved into this house, and Lent seems a good time to set one up. Then Auntie Leila posted about her forthcoming book (which I've pre-ordered, and  you should too!) and my friend Christine wrote about setting up a home altar. But I've been having trouble finding a spot that met my three criteria:

1. a place that's prominent rather than an out-of-the-way corner of the room,

2. a place that's easily accessible to gather around and pray, and

3. a place that's unlikely to be collided into by rambunctious little boys.

Thinking about it was getting me nowhere so taking advantage of a rare opportunity when all three children were sleeping, I did some experimentation with two ideas.

Number one:

A beloved statue of Our Lady, St. Therese, our boys' patron saints

This little table served primarily as a family altar in our old apartment, and it has a little drawer that could be used for rosaries, holy cards, and such. I think it makes a very pretty altar. The only problem is where it's located in our dining room. 

Yep, that table's not likely to get bumped by a little boy, unless it's when we try to squeeze in front of the altar during family prayer. There really is no room between the altar and the dining room table. Plus it's really only noticeable from one direction (I stood in the kitchen doorway to take this picture).

So, option number two:

On the mantle, so very prominent, nothing likely to get bumped or broken, and quite easy to gather around. But I just feel it lacks a certain something ... 

Why yes, there are two babies asleep in those swings!

I think part of the problem is that the mantle is so BIG. We're going to eventually build shelves on either side of the mantle so perhaps that will create more of a "space" but for now it just seems like the altar is more "stuff."

I've also thought about setting it up where the computer is--right now the computer is the first thing you see on walking in our front door, and how neat would it be to have the altar there instead? But I don't think we'll be rearranging our furniture any time soon. I'm thinking the dining room is our best bet for now, simply because it's the space that most feels like an altar.

What do you think?

(Posted as part of the seven posts in seven days challenge ... even though I missed day two.)


  1. you have a beautiful house! It takes time to figure these things out... I agree, I think the backdrop of the mantel swallows up as it were the intended focal point of your family altar; I like the first one better but can see the chair/table crowding problem; is there anyway to move the table just a bit back from this?

    It takes time and patience to develop one's home and all of these things.

    Lots of love to you!

  2. I liked the mantle option, but you should raise it on something else. Maybe put a drawer there with a top. You could place the statues and such on top and have your rosaries and cards in the drawer. Also, raising it separates it from the rest of the mantle, which I think is your main problem. You need to make it different from everything else sitting there. So either raise it, or set up borders around it. Perhaps bookends? Maybe those ones that look like they're praying when pushed together, so the entire alter is within the praying hands. Just a couple ideas...

  3. The first one looks better-composed and more altar-like. Also, we've found that when praying with kids, it's good for the items to be lower where they can see them without craning their necks too much. The mantle is high. Could you maybe put a small altar table in that other corner by the fireplace - where the baby swings are now?