Thanks to Anna-Kathryn Kline for this new submission in the vein of our Meaningful Home series. When she emailed her post, I was delighted for several reasons: 1.) It’s always very fun to receive guest posts 2.) We here are all admirers and fans of Leila Lawler/Like Mother, Like Daughter and 3.) I’ve been meaning to finish a post on The Little Oratory for months. So, clearly, it’s a pleasure to publish this. If you are ever inspired to write something that you think would fit on the Homely Hours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most appealing aspects for me as we have journeyed towards classical Christianity is the theology of the Incarnation. I grew up with a healthy respect for God’s transcendence, but leaning into His imminence has allowed me to tap into the spiritually thick atmosphere around me. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found a book called The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by Catholic bloggers Leila Lawler and David Clayton. In it, Lawler encourages families to create a physical space in their homes for prayer. She calls this the little oratory. It is a place of beauty where you can find images and words to contemplate and increase your desire for prayer. This is not a new concept. It is ancient practice to have a place of prayer and is commonly practiced still among Catholic and Orthodox believers. It was new to me, though.
So, about a year ago, I created this space. I cleared a coffee table in our living room actually. Now, hanging on the wall above the table is an icon of Christ glorified. Framed and on the table are two more icons, the Theotokos and the Crucifix. I also keep our prayer book, the family Bible, and one homemade beeswax candle.
My two oldest children, now at 5 and 3 years old, love to help me make these candles. It is a special time where we remind ourselves to pray without ceasing. We offer short prayers of thanksgiving and giggle a lot because of our excitement, knowing we are caring for our little oratory. Next year, even though our particular parish does not celebrate Candlemas, I think I will have our priest bless these candles.
I have found the benefits of our little oratory immeasurable. As Christians, we recognize the home not only as a physical shelter, but also as a sanctuary where the family is tasked with guarding and communicating love. In the middle of all the chaos that often accompanies family life, I find it is good to have that little oratory reminding me to slow down even if I can only slow down mentally in that moment. If the Way of Beauty is a precursor to the Way of Goodness and the Way of Truth, then it is fitting to have a dedicated spot of beauty, order, and harmony for prayer. Our little oratory is a collection of beautiful things that directs my gaze upwards. It is well placed in our living room so that when we come together to rest or read as a family throughout the day, we are reminded that it is prayer that holds our day together and the Lord’s continual presence that sanctifies our pursuits.
It is at our little oratory where we find the heartbeat of our house pushing the lifeblood throughout our day. From this physical spot, our rhythms of coming together and moving apart are centered. It is there that we pray morning prayers, chant psalms, and find shelter for private devotions. It is where we pray evening prayers and from which my children are blessed before being sent to bed.
Anna-Kathryn Kline is a military spouse who uses the liturgical year to provide stability and familiarity to her home. She is the privileged stay-at-home mother of three little girls and spends her days rediscovering her childhood by coming alongside her girls in the pursuit of wonder.