by Father Arthur Tonne, The Big Book of Catholic Sacramentals
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that built it.” – Psalm 126:1.
Van Meter is just a small town in Iowa, but it boasts one of the finest rural homes in the entire state. It is the home built in 1940 by Bob Feller, pitching ace of the Cleveland Indians.
Although Fire-ball Feller was only 22 years old at the time, he already had made enough money to put up a $25,000 home for his father, mother and younger sister.
The building boasts every modern convenience–electrical equipment of all kinds, ventilating and heating systems, venetian blinds, casement windows, plenty of cupboards and drawers, ceiling-high bookcases, and especially an all-metal, all-electric kitchen.
There are gadgets galore, like a floor switch to call the maid, musical chimes, and an electric eye which automatically opens the garage door when a car comes up the driveway. All these conveniences are for the physical comfort of those who live there. They make house-keeping easier. They save time and energy.
Desirable and helpful as such gadgets are, we cannot help thinking that homes would be much more precious if the same effort were taken to provide spiritual helps and spiritual equipment.
From the material standpoint the home of Bob Feller is ideal. What is needed to make a home ideal from the spiritual standpoint?
The sacramentals of the home are varied and numerous. They help make home a holy place. They are not essential, but they contribute to spiritual health and vigor. Some of these sacramentals will receive a more complete treatment on other Sundays.
How make our homes holy?
1. There are several blessings for a home. One is given on the Epiphany, one on Holy Saturday. There is a common blessing that can be given a home at any time, and another special blessing for a new home.
The common blessing includes sprinkling the rooms with holy water, offering several short Bible verses, and reciting an appropriate prayer.
The blessing for a new house begs God to grant to those who live therein “the abundance of the dew of heaven, and food of the fatness of the earth, and let their desires and their prayers find fulfillment in Thy mercy.”
2. Of the numerous blessings of individuals we will speak on other Sundays. Let me merely mention them:
a. The Church blesses an expectant mother.
b. She blesses the mother after childbirth.
c. She blesses small children.
d. She has a blessing for an older child.
e. And still another for sick children.
3. Prayers in the home are important sacramentals:
a. Family prayer is the most helpful religious practice in the home. At some time each day parents and children should pray together. Some do this right after the evening meal, right at the table or kneeling beside it.
b. Individual morning and evening prayer should be an everyday practice. Let father and mother give the example and the reminder to their children.
c. Meal prayer should never be omitted. In addition to thanking God for the food and asking His blessing upon it, the meal prayer serves as a point of pause and spiritual refreshment in a busy day. It is good for the body as well as the soul.
4. Let me mention some other family devotions:
a. The Rosary does not take too long. Try it and discover the peace and powerful helps it will bring your family.
b. There are devotions for different seasons of the year; a crib at Christmas; a May altar; Sacred Heart prayers during June.
c. Remembering the feasts of patron saints of the different members of the family in some way, however small, is an inspiring practice.
d. Some little family celebration at spiritual milestones like First Communion, Confirmation, graduation from a Catholic school, is inspiring.
5. Each member of the family should have a prayer-book and a Rosary. Best of all is a missal. Keep these in a respectable place. Both children and adults should have medals, scapulars, Sacred Heart badges, and whatever helps spiritual life at home.
6. A Catholic home is marked with religious furnishings and adornment.
a. There should be a crucifix in every bedroom at least.
b. Somewhere in every home there should be at least one picture of our Lord and of our Blessed Mother.
c. There should be holy water, and, if possible, a holy water fount which is kept clean and filled, and honored with regular, reverent use.
d. There should be blessed candles.
e. There should be all the necessary equipment if a priest is called to bring Holy Communion or to assist the dying.
f. Many homes have a little altar, which serves as the center of family prayer, the meeting place for spiritual practices like the Rosary, May devotions, and Sacred Heart devotions.
Bob Feller’s home for his parents and sister may be ideal from the physical and material standpoint. Many a home is ideal from that viewpoint. But all too many homes are poorly equipped, miserably arranged from the spiritual standpoint.
The sacramentals will help to bring the thought of God into your little kingdom of love–your home. Do make yours an ideal home by using the sacramentals of Mother Church. Amen.
“Most women I know are busy. There are times when we take on too much. I’ve been there, and I’ll venture to guess that many of you have as well. That’s when it’s time to step back and take an inventory. Sit down and decide what needs to stay and where you need to cut back. Doing this means that we must be willing to make some sacrifices whether personal or financial in order to keep faith and family as our top two priorities, in that order.” Darlene Schacht, The Good Wife’s Guide, Painting by Marina Chulovich (1956)
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The rosary, scapulars, formal prayers and blessings, holy water, incense, altar candles. . . The sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church express the supreme beauty and goodness of Almighty God. The words and language of the blessings are beautiful; the form and art of statues and pictures inspire the best in us. The sacramentals of themselves do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly help for those who use them properly. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to help devotion, and thus secure grace and take away venial sin or the temporal punishment due to sin. This beautiful compendium of Catholic sacramentals contains more than 60,000 words and over 50 full color illustrations that make the time-tested sacramental traditions of the Church – many of which have been forgotten since Vatican II – readily available to every believer.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Published 80 years ago, this Catholic classic focuses on the Christian family and uses as its foundation the1929 encyclical “On Christian Education of Youth” coupled with the “sense of Faith.” Addressing family topics and issues that remain as timely now as they were when the guide was first published, “The Christian Home” succinctly offers sound priestly reminders and advice in six major areas…
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I know a family who had many beautiful sacramentals, and a visiting priest called their house a mini chapel. 🙂
Thank you for the reading!