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Making your Family Prayer Altar

The Need for a Family Prayer Altar

Photo of an Altar from my home…

Do we need a Family Prayer Altar? Really?

The Catholic Church calls every family to be a Domestic Church (see Lumen Gentium). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition) para 1666 states: ‘The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church”, a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and Christian charity.’

So, in my mind, this means that there needs to be a place where the family can gather, learn together about the faith and keep on growing in it! A huge part of this, for all of us, is to hear & listen to the Word of God and to be guided to live the best Catholic life possible.

So, part of the Catholic life is to pray daily. How can this be encouraged? Apart from getting down to the nitty-gritty of praying it helps to have a place where we can go to when we pray. Not somewhere tucked away….but somewhere obvious, which will be attractive and which will ‘call us’ to pray. This is the idea of the Family Prayer Altar.

What will your Family Prayer Altar look like?

Very minimalist with one crucifix or something more elaborate with a statue, a bible and a candle?

Here are some different views of what it could look like. This short video shows how to make a simple Family Altar. Please check it out here..

To see something more elaborate look here

Honestly, the videos are just for ideas. Use whatever suites your style: a simple IKEA small table/ shelf. Whatever style you decide on, you might like to use an altar cloth…of course you don’t have to!

Maybe you would like to help your kids follow the liturgical year? So, during Lent and Advent you could use a purple tablecloth…? And a green tablecloth during Ordinary time…?

When do you use your Family Altar?

Any time that the family feels called to pray together! The best times to pray would when it is quiet, such as early Morning Prayer or Bedtime Prayer. Every family’s routine is different and you will work out what suites your family best. I have friends with a young-teen family who start off their day with prayer at 7:30 am. At their family altar, they begin with morning prayers. These are then followed by one of the 

children reading the gospel of the day out loud. They then meditate on that Gospel and share what it means to them. Only those who want to will speak. Then they will be encouraged to pray aloud with mum/dad starting: this often results in intercessory prayer. During their Bedtime Prayers, the Rosary is prayed in the children’s bedroom. Some children will fall asleep while others can make it right to the end!

Whatever you decide on, intentional family prayer time at your Family Altar sends a clear message to your children. A message that you, as a parent, believes that prayer is as important as food – and that you can’t live without it. We all need God and the intercession of our brothers and sisters and angels in Heaven, right?! We are part of the communion of saints (the earthbound part) and together we are all part of Christ’s family! We make up the earthbound part of the Mystical Body of Christ!


Invite your children to bring objects to the Family Altar

This way they will feel that they are playing an important part in the spiritual life of your family. And if the Altar seems to get crowded with too many objects, then you simply have a family discussion about what is important, right now, to help the family focus in their prayer time. Some people like the cluttered effect while for others it simply takes away their peace. Your altar should promote peace for everyone!

What might they bring to the Altar?

Start the conversation and explain how objects on the altar are there to help us to lift our hearts and minds to God in prayer. What things might help us to remember that God is LOVE? That He is a God of Beauty and Order and Peace and Joy? Your words will be better than mine!

Wild flowers will make it a fittingly, beautiful place to worship our beautiful God.

Photos of a sick aunt – to remind everyone to intercede for her.

Stones might remind the kids that God created everything, the very Earth we stand on and this, of course, includes the stones. Bird feathers to thank God for His creation of the birds. You may end up with all sorts – including live snails! Enjoy!

Here is another video (12 mins) to help you in your thought processes in making your Family Altar. Enjoy!