Other Husband & Wife Articles

Our Domestic Church

By Elizabeth Ficocelli

The first apartment my husband and I rented was decorated in what we called “early American garage sale” – a collection of mismatched furniture donations we gratefully accepted. As we became more financially stable, these eclectic hand-me-downs were replaced with stylish contemporary furnishings. But a move from the East Coast to the Midwest influenced my decorating taste toward traditional, with a strong emphasis on religious art. One day, as I was hanging yet another ornate cross on the wall, my husband commented, “I feel like I’m living in a church!”

Even though he was only half serious, his comment made me take pause. Certainly, I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable in his own home. Perhaps I had been making too many decisions without him. On the other hand, there was something profound about his statement – something that felt very right.

It would be years before I figured out what was drawing me to these religious icons. Deep down, I wanted to make our home like a little church – a place that reflected our Catholic faith and love for God, not just to our family members, but to all who visited us. I wanted these decorations to inspire our family to live our faith and radiate it to others through our words and actions.

This idea is hardly novel. It’s how the early Church first established itself in the world, and it even has a name: domestic church. In the time of St. Paul, entire households were baptized together and families became, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church so beautifully tells us, “islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world” (No. 1655). Today we are called in a similar way as households of faith to witness to our unbelieving world.

There are many ways Catholic families can do this. One of the first things our family did was enthrone the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our home. We selected a special image of Jesus and hung it in a prominent place where it could welcome visitors and we could gather together in prayer. We invited friends and family and asked our parish deacon to preside over a simple ceremony of prayer and music to formally make Jesus Christ the King of our household and the true head of our family.

We also have placed holy water fonts at the front and back doors of our home. We like the idea of blessing ourselves as we enter and exit, and particularly blessing our children as they depart for school. There are blessed crucifixes hanging above the doorways of every bedroom and we’ve had the entire home blessed by our pastor. We perpetuate this blessing by routinely sprinkling the rooms with holy water as a family and even blessing the perimeters of our yard with holy salt.

Changing the decorations in our home to match the liturgical year helps us to remain connected to our Church. During Christmas we decorate to celebrate the Incarnation and at Easter the Resurrection, but we also observe other times of the year. For example, during Lent we hang purple ribbons on each crucifix and display small bouquets of purple flowers and candles throughout our home.

Often times, the decorations inspire action on our part. A poster of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy we made for Lent is one example. Our children love to put star stickers on the poster as we accomplish these works together. We pray before an illustrated set of the Stations of the Cross during the same season and we keep a large family Bible in our den year round to read from individually or as a family.

Most precious to us, however, are the times we’ve been blessed to have Mass celebrated in our home. As we gather around our dining room table to participate in this sacred ritual, I look at my husband and smile. What an honor and privilege it is to be a domestic church.

A Catholic convert and mother of four, Elizabeth Ficocelli is the author of eleven books for adults and young people, a frequent guest on Catholic radio and television, and a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, parishes, and schools. For more information, please visit her website at www.elizabethficocelli.com.