Earlier this month, I wrote about the need for parents of all ages to model life-long learning and I also offered a simple “Parent Pledge” form to work as a reminder and a motivator. The truth is, there is simply no substitute for modeling the behavior you would like to see in your children, grandchildren or other people who are important to you. In fact, the quiet witness of a parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent who prays and studies is one of the biggest factors teens list as a reason for staying in the church and continuing to develop a relationship with God after they leave home. Put simply, when teens (and later, young adults) wonder what it means to act like an adult, as a mature Catholic, they already know. They can recall that person in their family who modeled it for them. Today, I want to give another suggestion that ties in with going back to school and learning in general - make prayer visual.
Making prayer visual is at the heart of our Catholic faith. From stained glass windows in our churches to statues and rosary beads, even the Eucharist itself, what we believe about the spiritual world we represent as physical things we can see, touch, hear and sometimes taste. One of the easiest ways to make prayer visible, to make it tangible, is to create a dedicated and permanent Prayer Space somewhere in your home.
Just as using the “Parent Pledge” form as a visual reminder can help you to stick with your learning plan, a Prayer Space can serve as a continual reminder of the call to pray, to connect ourselves to God, as well as God’s presence among us. A Prayer Space marks our movement through the Liturgical Calendar of the Church and helps us to “count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” (Psalm 90:12) in prioritizing and arranging our time.
Your Prayer Space
To get started, choose an appropriate place in your home that is in a visible, yet comfortable location. Some families keep their Prayer Spaces on a corner table in the family room while others use a shelf in the living room. I’ve seen families set up a Prayer Space in the front hall, to help mark their comings and goings. My Prayer Space is upstairs, on the landing outside the bedrooms. The point is - just find the right place in your home that fits.
Next, get a green cloth, napkin or even a piece of paper to cover your area and represent Ordinary Time. Later in the year, you’ll also need a purple cloth to use for Advent and Lent. (The two purples of Advent and Lent are technically different colors, but for our purposes, the same purple cloth will work.) Then, place a Bible in your space. The Bible should be in a place of honor and prominence, as the Word of God. I have a small sign that I place near my Bible that quotes St. Jerome “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”to remind me of the value of Scripture. Finally, add other symbols of our faith such as a candle, a rosary, a crucifix and statues of your favorite saints. Then, customize it according to your own family and the needs of those in the home. Maybe put a photo of a loved one who lives far away or someone who is sick.
Enthroning the Bible
A great way to start off using your new Prayer Space is by Enthroning the Bible together as a family. The US Bishops offer this ritual for families to follow: EnthroningBible.indd (usccb.org) After the enthroning, think about a specific time each week when everyone agrees to try to gather at the Prayer Space. Maybe not everyone will be home at that time each week, but whoever is available can know that there is a special time set aside to pray together, even if for only 10 minutes. Keep a jar or container at your Prayer Space, with a pen and notepad, and invite everyone to add any special intentions to the family jar to be remembered.
There is no wrong way to create a Prayer Space and don’t get too upset if it’s not used as often as you would like. The important thing is to get just started and then get started again if it is forgotten or life gets too crazy.
Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy. Amen.