Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to Create a Personal Altar

For Advent this year, I created a personal altar in my home for my family's use.  It has proven to be a wonderful way to bring Catholicism into our home.  My daughter likes to take our Bible from it and "read stories about Jesus."  Both of my older children like watching me decorate it and looking at the statues of our Blessed Mother and Joseph.  It is a great place to focus on my prayers and to remind me to maintain my prayer life despite the chaos of having three small children.  Also, if you're going to be called an idol-worshiping heathen for kneeling before statues, you might as well have a place to kneel before your statues.  Am I right or am I right?  Anyway, without further ado, here are some simple steps on how to create your own personal altar that reflects your personal tastes and devotions and has a special meaning for your family.


The first step in creating your home altar is to find a place in your home where you can keep it.  I am very fortunate to have inherited a cabinet with shelves and drawers.  When I was looking for a place to start my altar, it seemed like the perfect place to put it as it was a good display place that had enough room to hold everything I wanted.  I also liked how I had two drawers for storage for my altar right near it.  Use what works for you.  Maybe your fireplace mantel or a dresser; the important thing is to just make sure it's a place you like that you think will work. 
Full View of My Cabinet
The next step is to gather items to put on your altar.  I highly recommend going to your local fabric store and getting about a half yard or so of fabric you like in each of the liturgical colors.  Some basic items that will go well on your altar are statues of the Holy Family (either together or separate), a crucifix, family patrons in the form of icons or statues, and a Bible. In deciding what other statues and other devotional items to place on your altar, I highly recommend thinking about what appeals specifically to you and your family.  I have a Sacred Heart of Jesus picture as I love the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I have an icon of the wedding prayer of Tobias and Sarah because I adore Theology of the Body.  (I hope to also purchase a statue of St. Raphael someday to further pay homage to this devotion.)  To add some beauty, you may want to add floral arrangements with either silk or fresh flowers and branches that match the current liturgical season.  Buy some candles to light.  Incense is a nice touch as well.  I chose a stick incense burner because it was easiest, but you can choose to buy a cone incense burner instead.  *Note* Be responsible with incense and candles.  Do not leave them unattended when you burn them.  Finally, to add a really personal touch, add items that have a sentimental value to you.  The crucifix on my Bible is from my grandmother's funeral I attended a couple weeks ago, so it has made my altar even more special to me.  If you don't have a lot of money and can't afford to buy a bunch of statues right away, you can just do something like buy some card stock and print out your favorite pictures of your patrons and the Holy Family on half of a page and then fold them like greeting cards so they can stand.  As you can afford to, replace the card stock with statues and icons of your choosing.  If you are artistic, try making some of your own pictures to place on your altar.  Be creative!

I personally like to cover my head when I pray, so I added a plastic hook to the side of my cabinet and hung a silk scarf there so I always have a cover available for my daily prayers. 

My Totally 80s-Colored Silk Scarf Used to Cover My Head While I Pray


In my drawers under my altar, I keep my book of Catholic prayers, my candles, matches, incense, rosaries, fabrics and ribbon with liturgical colors, and other miscellaneous items I use for my altar.  

Ribbons, Rosaries, A Pile of Advent Candles (Hey, THEY WERE ON SALE - DON'T JUDGE ME), Fabrics of Liturgical Colors

Catholic Book of Prayers, Incense, Matches, Candles
The cabinet under my altar is a mess.  Don't think I'm some kind of super-organized robot because of my drawers.  I have some flowers and other decorations for my altar in the cabinet.  Here is a picture of those things, some of which fell out so I had to pick them them up for the picture.

I promise I'm kind of normal and have normal messes...
And that's really all there is to it.  I change my altar with the changing liturgical seasons just like the altar at the Church.  Best of all, since it's mine, I get to make it exactly like I want it.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful!

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