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Atmosphere – Art of Faith

January 20, 2007

Chers Amis, 

Lately I have been thinking about atmosphere a great deal. One of my goals for a long been to add a family altar or prayer corner to our home.  I must admit  that as a convert, liturgical art or displays were not a natural addition to my world (please don’t cringe).  Actually, art of any type except photography is virtually absent from our house.  How can this be?!! The daughter and granddaughter of artists has empty vanilla walls?  I like to say that my style is thrifty English/French country Shaker.  Truth is, persnickety + frugal = bare walls.  The only liturgical exceptions are a small crucifix and a Warner Sallman Head of Christ my sweet pitying  friends bought me for my birthday a few years ago.   

Last year Meredith at Sweetness and Light included a photo of her tiny shelf altar replete with fresh flowers.  I just loved its simplicity and lack of pretension. A light went off in my head. Ever since then, I have been eying covetously avidly a small shelf that we hung next to Caddie’s desk in our school room – the center of our non-food related daily activity.   Caddie was using it to hold books, odds and ends, items to be put away "later, Mom!" glasses of half-sipped lemonade and empty cheese stick wrappers. Surely we could use it for a higher purpose?  After several months of territorial squabbles Altarover the removal of a sand art "masterpiece" and the other important items (see above list), Caddie allowed me a two-week trial lease on the space with the understanding that my "project" could be evicted with no parental repercussions.  My two weeks were up last Friday — and she LOVES the little altar and was thrilled to be able to select a candle of just the right blue to grace it.  Here it is in Phase I.  I have saved and collected liturgical calendars for several years, so we selected a picture from one of them to represent the major feast day of the month – The Baptism of Our Lord -, cut it out and mounted it in a simple gold frame we had from art study. The plan is to change the picture with the feast day/season and let the kids take turns choosing which artwork to use.  This year’s calender is at children’s eye level so they can follow it daily.  Pippin is just learning to read a calendar and adores announcing the date.  Next to the frame is a beautiful cast iron cross with a rose that my littlest sis (yls) gave me for Christmas.  As a paperweight it should be on my desk across the room, but we have a checkered history of flying paperweights at notre moulin. (Pippin+ PW+ Caddie+ First Communion Eve = 5 stitches.) Lead us not into temptation . . . I think it looks best on the shelf 🙂  Scarlett received this pretty creche for Christmas and it fits nicely.  Come spring we will add bud vases with sprays of the lilies of the valley or Honest from our garden.  We gathered jonquils from along the roadside Friday for our Pooh Party and they will be put on the altar tonight after dinner.  Caddie had to add a garland of rosaries for good measure. 

For any of you who, like me in days past, wonder what the purpose of a family altar may be, think of it as an offering.  An offering of space, of attention, a visual reminder of God’s centrality to our life, a still-life of our faith. Every morning we start the day by lighting the candle and offering our prayers, work, struggles, sufferings and joys to God and we ask for his grace to do his will with love and the minimum of bickering and tears.  Hearing Caddie pray out loud with the greatest of sincerity it the most beautiful sound.  I hope that the image of the altar  and what it represents will stay in my children’s minds as proof of the importance of putting God first in their lives, in big ways – and in little ones.

— Marjorie


2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2007 4:32 pm

    This is beautiful, thanks for linking me!!

  2. January 23, 2007 1:46 am

    Your altar shelf is really pretty. We’ve just added an altar area to our home this month as well and it’s nice to see those of other families to get ideas.

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