Setting Up An Oratory At Home
The Location and Setting
- If you have a choice, you may like to include a particular view which for you is meaningful and helpful. This could be one of houses, gardens, sea views or even none at all.
- Again, if you have a choice, you may be able to arrange it that you have morning or afternoon sun — or both — or none at all. Recall the value of your oratory facing East, if this is practical. If it is impractical, we encourage you to look upon your oratory as a symbolic “liturgical East” to help keep your focus on preparing for and awaiting the Return of Jesus Messiah. This is a major Hebrew Catholic perspective of immense spiritual importance.
- The above two aspects may have some influence on a third consideration as to lighting, heating and fresh air. Usually, most people prefer subdued lighting but adequate for reading without strain. Attention to our bodily needs is legitimate when the motive is to improve one’s concentration in prayer or even in just restful reflection.
- Noise, movement, traffic, telephone and other possible distractions also need to be thought about in advance. Prayer-time is not a license to escape to an impregnable fortress where we can forget the world and its needs. However, provided one has taken reasonable steps to provide for the needs of others, then one can quite justifiably retreat to a quiet place without feeling selfish, and give focused attention to the Lord. It is not going too far to utilise a telephone answering message system so that you are not out of reach for very long in the case of those who depend on close contact with you.
Furnishings and Equipment
- If your oratory is just a corner or small space in a lounge which is
used for other activities, then it is really only a matter of adapting
things at hand to meet your needs.
- If you are designing an area for specific use as an oratory there are
various possibilities depending on your own custom and practice.
a) using a suitable chair, with no other necessary furniture;
b) using a chair and table;
c) using a “prie dieu” — a kneeler desk;
d) using a floor cushion or pad to sit and / or kneel on.
- Everyone needs to make their own decision about whether to have
a clock of some sort visible (preferably a silent one). An excellent
alternative is to have a timer (preferably with a subdued or dignified bell)
which allows you to allocate yourself a time slot and then relax and
forget the time.
- Some people like to play appropriate music as part of their prayer time.
So a player of some sort could be at hand. There is no reason to avoid
electronic equipment if this genuinely supports our devotional practices,
or even just helps us sing better.
- We recommend as a very helpful item in every private oratory, a calendar
indicating the seasons and feast-days of the Jewish and Church year.
One can get by with information available on the Internet. However, to
have one’s own source at hand really is a great help.
We have noted elsewhere that from the very beginning of the Church, Christians have decorated their places of worship with beautiful imagery. The oldest extant image of our Lord is a representation of him as the Good Shepherd painted on one of the catacomb walls where Christians gathered to offer the Eucharist. We have also noted elsewhere that this was not by accident, nor without a strong theological foundation. Thus, buildings used for traditional Christian worship have always been decorated with Biblical imagery via paintings, frescoes, statues, icons and later, stained glass windows. Similarly, Christian books have also reflected a sense of order and beauty. All of this imagery reflects in some small way the beauty of the spiritual realm which God has revealed to us — and of which we are part.
It is perfectly natural, therefore, for us to draw on this tradition and incorporate these principles of devotion in our household oratories. The following lists are suggestions only to help you plan your preparation.
The selection of art in one’s oratory will naturally to vary according to personal taste and background. The same is likely to apply with the selection of books one wants to have at hand. We can therefore, give only a guide and leave it to individuals to consult their own advisors if they are uncertain.
We would anticipate the following as being helpful:—
a) a daily Missal (which comprises mainly Bible passages and related prayers —
but check the translation);
b) a Bible, Scrolls, or book of readings:
Note: It is strongly recommended to have at hand a full Bible as
authorised formally by the Church. There are many modern
English translations available and some of these are very
They are often poorly translated and can be quite misleading.
c) prayer books;
d) approved commentaries on Scripture;
e) spiritual reading on various topics;
- lives of the Patriarchs, Prophets and Saints.
Note: We recommend a priest be consulted as to which items
(e.g a Missal) should be blessed. These can be used as “sacramentals”
which means they can be channels of grace for the user.
2. Sacramentals are objects we use in our devotions. The use of blessed images, statues, icons and other such objects can help restore our spiritual equilibrium in a world which is increasingly antagonistic towards traditional Christianity.
We strongly recommend some or all of the following:—
a) a Holy Water stoup (font), either made for the purpose — otherwise
a small dish or nice shell to hold Holy Water;
Note: This can be placed at doorways (especially back and
front doors)as well as at the entrance to the oratory, or sitting
close at hand.
b) a mezuzah (or several throughout the house)
c) a Rosary;
d) single candles, and a seven candle menorah;
e) votive lamps (coloured or plain).
3. Other helpful items can include:—
a) a crucifix (or image of the crucifixion);
b) a statue of our Lord — especially a Sacred Heart statue;
(There are many to choose from.
We highly recommend this particular devotion which
can also be found in icon form.)
c) a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, either alone or holding
the infant Jesus;
d) a statue of St. Joseph — again, alone, or together with the
e) a statue, (or image) of any favourite Saint;
f) items of art and craft work produced by the family, including
the children are especially appropriate;
g) framed Biblical texts or passages;
h) Some like to have a photograph or two of loved ones who
have gone to their eternal rest. In fact, selected photographs ~
of significant people and places in our life, are a very legitimate
reminder of the need for prayer: thanksgiving and intercession.