Thoughts about home altars and the future and you

In a recent post, because of the persecution of those who desire the Traditional Roman Rite, I mentioned having a “house chapel”.   Priests will be cancelled.  Masses will be suppressed in churches and chapels.   Remember: this is not aimed at rites… this is aimed at people.   It’s the people they don’t like because they internalize when the rites communicate.  We are our rites.

I had a request in email to repost about having “home altars”.  “House chapel… home altar”… pretty much the same thing: a decently arranged and furnished place, stable or quickly assembled, where, ideally, a priest could celebrate Mass.

In any event, it could also be a place for quite prayer, daily Rosary, etc.

Over at NLM there is a post providing photos from readers of their home altars or chapels.  HERE

One idea that I had was to use a piece of furniture called an “entertainment center”.  They look like a large wardrobe, armoire.  I posted this some time ago:

The use of a cabinet is a great idea.  For example, think about an “entertainment cabinet” that many people have, a large piece of furniture with doors that open to reveal a TV, etc.  These days, larger and better screens are pretty economical.  Big one’s won’t fit in these cabinets.   Hence, maybe it could be repurposed.   I have one (left by the previous resident) where I am now and it would be perfect with the rearranging of shelves.  I wonder if these aren’t going out of style now that screens are getting huge.  There might be some available used or on consignment, etc.

As it happens, I have a whole room dedicated as a chapel.  However, the attractive, abandoned piece of furniture I have would work very well.  There are even additional hinges in the frame behind the doors so that the doors could be opened all the way, flat against the sides of the cabinet, instead of sticking out.   I suppose the insides of the doors could be decorated with sacred images.  The drawers would easily hold Roman vestments, since they are plenty wide and deep.   Right now, I am cutting and staining boards to add as shelves to make it into a china cabinet.

I haven’t put any “china” into it, but it is doing a great job with what I have placed in it.

This can be a good discussion.

You will know where in your place you could establish something.

These days, most priests have kits that they can bring.  However, wouldn’t it be great to be able to have everything already?  Having wine suitable for Mass, hosts, linens, vestments, candles, etc., would be nice.  Perhaps as you upgrade over time, you could pass items along to others.

I don’t to go on at length here.  Some of you will have good ideas and your own experience.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. BobM says:

    Could someone comment on what constitutes the “wine suitable for Mass” that Father refers to. I live in Pa. What might be available in this area of the country? Thanks

  2. APX says:

    Anything with a fold down door would work well. A liquor cabinet, those secretary desks.

  3. redneckpride4ever says:

    Reading this is really wanting me to take a trip to Home Depot.

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    I have seen some lists for what is needed to have a proper home altar, but they have always been extensive and focused on high-budget items.

    It would be really nice is someone would create a list that
    1.) separated bare minimum items from these would be nice items.
    2.) provided links to “church supplies” that were more modestly priced.

  5. daughteroflight says:

    We got an entertainment center for free and turned it into a simple home altar/photo album storage area. Eventually we’ll outfit it more thoroughly with some shelving where the TV cabinet is. In my experience, people give them away dirt cheap or free on Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, etc. because they are big, heavy, and mostly useless for anything but a TV center (unless you have some imagination! They make great rabbit hutches too, if you have a house pet). The only qualm I have about them is whether they were used as an “altar” to some other god. … porn, sports, acedia. Probably worth a blessing and a good douse in holy water.

  6. Philmont237 says:

    We have a buffet that we use as a home altar. It hasn’t been fortunate to be used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass yet, but it would work very well for it.

  7. I have had a “For the Domestic Church” category on my site for a while but this topic has been increasingly on my mind and I just finished writing and posted on this same topis today:

  8. Just posted the following on this same topic today. It is meant as a quick guide for those who may need help getting started with a home altar. Probably beyond what anyone here needs but also a good resource and encouragement for family and friends.

    As things in the world and the Church continue to change and escalate it is more important than ever that Catholic families are dedicated to daily prayer and sacrifice. A home altar is a perfect way to set up a visual reminder for daily prayer and meditation. With regular use it becomes a place of refuge and comfort, that reminds us of the love and presence of God in our lives come what may. If you are looking to establish a traditional Catholic home altar, here are some steps to help you get started.

    Choose a location: The first step in setting up a home altar is to choose a good location in your home. This should be a place that is quiet, away from distractions where you and your family can focus on prayer and worship. A room in your home dedicated for this purpose would be ideal, but you can also set up a small corner in your living room or bedroom, a mantle, a bookshelf, or any space around which you can gather to pray.

    Gather the necessary items: To begin setting up your home altar, you will want to gather holy items and image such as any of the following: a crucifix, holy images, statues, blessed candles, a holy water font, holy books (Bible, prayer and devotional books, missals or other liturgical books, etc.) a kneeler, a rosary for each member of your family, holy relics, a liturgical calendar, and any other blessed or religious items your family finds edifying. The beauty of these sacred spaces is not the perfection or quantity of the items, or their arrangement, but the inspiration they provide your family to pray and the hours of prayer poured into them.

    Decorate your altar: As Catholics our faith is very physical and active — kneeling, standing, genuflecting, making the Sign of the Cross, etc. Adding physical changes to your altar according to the liturgical season can make it more edifying and meaningful. You can decorate it with flowers, a tablecloth/fabric, and other religious elements. These seasonal changes can help you move through the liturgical year with the Church and assist your family in meditation on our Lord’s love, sacrifice, and care.

    Use your altar: Once you have set up your home altar and use it daily it will naturally become a sacred center of prayer for your family. The head of the household can sprinkle holy water and ask God to bless the space, or you can also ask a trusted priest to come to your home and bless your altar.

    By setting up a home altar, you and your family can create a special and sacred space to pray, worship, and draw closer to God. It is a place where you can come together as a family, to offer thanks and praise, and to find comfort and peace in the presence of the Lord regardless of the chaos in the world or in the Church.

    If you have any questions please feel free to reach out. We are very happy to help!

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    Via, your post is kind and helpful.
    There is a book, probably a few books, but one from just a few years ago, “The Little Oratory, a beginner’s guide to praying in the home”. It is a nice little book and has lots of ideas and details. It’s by David Clayton and another person who’s name I can’t recall.

  10. APX says:

    Could someone comment on what constitutes the “wine suitable for Mass” that Father refers to. I live in Pa. What might be available in this area of the country?

    Back when I was preparing for my First Communion my mom went on a search for sacramental wine to practice with because she wanted me to know what it tastes like. We were told that it’s not available to the regular public and only clerics, churches, and religious orders can purchase it.

    It’s basically pure wine made only from grapes with no preservatives and no sulphites.

    [Wine with sulfites is valid matter. Basically, any decent grape wine from natural fermentation is valid matter. So is wine made from raisins.]

  11. BeatifyStickler says:

    We have our home Altar ready. A good Oratorian son of St. Philip Neri has told me to prepare to make my home the Oratory. I knew in the context that the good Priest was serious.

    We have an electric organ on its way.

    The underground Church resonates like Bach’s little fugue in G minor bwv 578. A great drama to which Christ will be victorious.

    Bring it!

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  13. BetsyRheaume says:

    I have an Amish built 10 x 14 building that I’m using as a chapel in my backyard. I’ve had it for only a year and I have no plans to finish the inside walls except to paint the 2 x 4s. I would like to run electricity to it so I can heat it when I’m out there in the winter. Considering the direction our country is headed, I want to be prepared so it can used as a house church if needed.

  14. Fr. Kelly says:

    @APX, There is a good article in Adoremus last January written by Fr. Guanella of the La Crosse Diocese in which he discusses this question with reference to Church law and some of the difficult cases that can and do come up.
    Wine must be fermented from the fruit of the vine and not corrupted. If it is to be fortified to increase its alcohol content, (to preserve its shelf life, say) this can only be by the addition of other grape liquor and not to more than 18% alcohol.
    For more nuance, please see his article.

    Hope this helps.

  15. I have a small end table I decked out as a home altar. A cloth over it, in the appropriate liturgical color of the season, with statues of Our Lady and Saint Michael standing over the devil, a Last Supper statue centerpiece under a crucifix. Flanked by a Saint Joseph and a Holy Guardian Angel card with a Holy Face image behind the Last Supper. And above the crucifix is a framed image of the Sacred Heart. And my home altar does face East.

    When I pray the Office at home, I bow my head toward the crucifix at the Gloria Patri and kneel there for the times we kneel during the Office.

    Unfortunately, it’s too small and too low for a priest to offer Mass.

    Suppose I could change that for a higher and bigger table, so a priest could offer Mass in my apartment. ?

  16. Josephus Corvus says:

    I wonder…. Of the people who already have these, did they get any use? We had a perfect dry run back in 2020 and if they weren’t used then, who thinks they would be used now?

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