Here I share the most important ten items your Catholic Home needs if you want your home to be a domestic church.
What is a Domestic Church?
A Domestic church is a place where you praise God and keep shelter. Not only is your home exclusive to you and your household but it also welcomes God’s presence. Your home is where you sleep, cook, read, pray and spend time with those you love. As Catholics, it’s important not to forget to welcome God into our homes.
I remember I went into a house with a friend and she said, “a house should look like a house and not like a church” referring to all the religious artwork, books, candles, and accents throughout the home. When my friend said that I don’t think she had mean intentions. She didn’t share the same faith as the woman who owned the home. All she saw was a lot of religious items filling a small space. To her, these items did not contain meaning outside of a church.
A lot of people share this view:
Church = Place of worshiping God
Home = Eat. Sleep. Watch TV.
However, this is not the way we should think of our home as being distinct from our worship of God. In fact, in times of persecution or illness, homes can become a church complete with an altar and a priest visiting to offer Mass, the Sacraments, or confession. My grandma receives the Sacraments in her home since she’s unable to attend Mass. A local priest visits her frequently for counseling, confession, and to receive the Eucharist.
In Russia and Germany, during times of persecution, Masses would be held in basements and all the neighbors would meet in secret every Sunday.
Recently, I was reading the book, Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. Early on in the book, Bishop Schneider discusses how he lived out persecution in his early childhood. His parents married in secret. Under Canon law, you are able to get married without a priest or deacon if no priest is available. In those days, there were no priests for decades since most priests would be sent to labor camps. The priests were never released and would die in the labor camps. The method of getting married was simple, you recite the vows and have witnesses. Then when a priest is available, you tell them of the vows and then the priest officiates a special marriage letting Rome know of what took place. In a similar way, Baptisms would also be done by the laity when no priest is available.
When There are No Priests
Unfortunately, in situations without priests, there are no Masses, no confessions, or any other Sacraments. In these situations, the best the laity could do is pray an Act of Contrition in place of confession and read the bible in place of the Holy Mass.
In the book, Bishop Schneider describes what it was like when his family finally did find a priest. They had to hide him from the authorities. Had they been caught, they and the priest could be sentenced to death in the labor camps. In those days, Masses and confessions were offered in people’s homes. Most importantly, how families were finally able to have access to the Sacred Host.
It’s important not to take for granted the religious freedoms we have in our respective counties. The middle east and China still face religious persecution.
And do not forget how the Catholic faith began in the homes of early Christians. In Gospel, Jesus commissioned the twelve:
“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons… Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you” Matthew 10: 7-13.
The Domestic Church
The United States Catholic Bishops has this to say about our Catholic homes:
“[The] Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family, is so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11) This means that it is in the context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us.”
In Lumen Gentium The Domestic church is described as:
“In it [our homes, our domestic churches] parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.”
These are 10 items your Catholic Home needs to be a Domestic Church:
# 1 Bible
Be sure to get a Catholic bible for everyone in your household. Protestant bibles are not the same as Catholic bibles. Catholic bibles have more books and have better accounts of the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Luke. My children have Children’s Catholic Bibles, and my husband and I have our own bibles. I have the Great Adventure Bible Revised Standard Version and my husband has the Douay Rheims Bible.
# 2 Rosary
The Rosary is the best bible companion because it helps you meditate on 5 mysteries of the New Testament every single day. The Virgin Mary is also the mediatrix of all graces so it’s important to have a devotion to her. Be sure to get one for each member of your household and to have the Rosaries blessed by a priest. This is very easy to do, just meet the priest and asked to have it blessed. It takes less than a minute and now your Rosary is Blessed Sacramental. If you have younger children, they do make Rosaries for babies that are chew-resistant for teething babies.
# 3 Crucifix
I like to keep Crucifixes in every room so everyone in my household can look at the cross and meditate on the passion. When we look at the cross we see Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation and it also calls to our attention that we must also take up our cross and follow him.
# 4 An Image of Jesus Christ
My favorite image of Jesus is the Divine Mercy image. I pray next to the Divine Mercy image often in my kitchen while cleaning or cooking meals. I also have an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus gifted to me by my mother that I keep at the entrance of my home. My great-grandmother kept an image of the Sacred Heart in the entrance of her home. One time burglars came to rob her home and the burglars put down the image of the Sacred Heart faced down before they proceeded to rob the home – at least they must have felt shame. It’s been a tradition in my family for at least a century.
# 5 Holy Water
I have a large jug of Holy Water I keep in my closet along with small containers labeled Holy Water that make it easy to sprinkle around my home. When they are empty I refill them up.
# 6 Holy Water Font
Many people place small water fonts in the entrance of the homes but in my opinion, they are better suited for hallways or doorways. Anywhere family members would frequently pass by and bless themselves.
# 7 Blessed Candles
Not everyone knows you can have candles blessed. We love to attend Candle Mass. It’s once a year in February, it’s a Traditional Latin Mass where all the candles are blessed. You need to have pure beeswax candles and sometimes you’ll even do a procession around the church with your newly blessed candles. Of course, you do not need to wait for Candle Mass to get your blessed candles. You can take any candle to get blessed by a priest at any time. We just love to attend Candle Mass.
# 8 Missal
This one may come as a surprise to many people since missalettes are offered for free at every parish. However, I don’t like using them. They cost the church a lot of money to print out new missals every liturgical season. My heart aches to see images of Christ and the Word of God thrown away in the trash after each of these missalettes expire. Another reason I prefer to buy my own missal is that I can personalize it. I can place prayer cards inside and add markings over my favorite passages. My children also have their own children’s missals with beautiful illustrations of what’s happening in mass.
# 9 Have the House Blessed
As soon as my family moved into our new home, we called our priest to visit and bless our home. We put out coffee and pastries for father as soon as he was done. He also blessed Holy Water, Salt, Candles, Missals, Bibles, and Sacred Images. Afterward, we enjoyed delicious pastries and talked about the faith. It was a beautiful experience for our family.
# 10 Good Catholic Books
Second, to the bible, you should have books that either help you deepen your understanding of scripture or to grow in holiness. Learning the lives of saints will help you to grow in holiness because you can model them. Recently, I’ve been reading Habits for Holiness: Small Steps for Making Big Spiritual Progress by Fr. Mark Mary Ames. It’s about how the Franciscan Friars live like Saint Francis of Assisi and more importantly like Jesus Christ. This book offers practical advice for the laity to follow in their daily lives and developing a domestic church.
As I mentioned earlier, it is possible for your home to become a Catholic church during difficult times. It is both beautiful and prudent to consider building a home altar complete with the bible, crucifix, white cloth, and Sacred images. If you have small children it helps them to see and understand from a young age that home is Christ-centered.
If you enjoyed this post be sure to check out Catholic Resources page for more ideas.