Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Very Liturgical Home Oratory

After seeing our recent photoposts of home altars and prayer corners (part 1 and part 2), reader John Ryan Debil sent us these pictures of his home oratory, a project into which he has put a great deal of time and effort, with truly wonderful results. You can see more about it on Facebook page ;“The Home Oratory and YouTube channel of the same name. Mr Debil also very kindly asked me to mention that much of his inspiration for this project came from reading both New Liturgical Movement and Liturgical Arts Journal. Our thanks to him for sharing these pictures and the write-up with us.

I started this project in 2018, and having this “home oratory” space became very useful, especially during the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic. I had a carpenter friend build a “gradine” that I could put on top of an Ikea bookcase that I have, while I personally rendered the faux marble effect on it. Here is how it initially looked:

I found the wooden statue of Our Lady of Bavaria on eBay, and the resin statues of the Apostles, Evangelists and other saints (called Veronese Statues) on various online shops. I then decided to transform my prayer space to the next level by trying to make a miniature version of the high altars seen in many Italian Baroque churches. My main inspirations were the altars of Santissima Trinità Dei Pellegrini, the FSSP church in Rome, and various high altars in Malta.
I hid the storage area of the bookshelf with a 10mm thick foam sheet, on which a painted a faux marble effect.
Here’s the final result:
Then I decided to create a faux “mensa”, which is made out of an Ikea TV-unit.
I use the previous bookshelf as a storage area for statues, candlesticks and reliquaries, until such time that it is appropriate for those articles to be placed on the home altar (e.g., All Saints’ Day). It is my main goal to ensure that my home altar aligns as closely as possible to the liturgical calendar, changing its arrangement throughout the year. Here is how I store my statues and other religious articles.
I have personally crafted some of the ornaments on my home altar, such as the portapalme. For this, I used some 5mm thick foam sheets, sandwiched between thermoplastic sheets called “worbla” to create the leaf shape; then I glued onto it various brass stampings found on eBay.
For Requiem candlesticks. I found some sober looking (but rose-coloured) ones on eBay, which I spray-painted in black, and added some gold highlights on them. Before...
and after:
I also crafted my own antependia using MDF wood sheets as my base; and various damask fabrics, galloons and trims found on over eBay and Etsy.
I mounted all these boards on a custom-size wooden photo frame which I ordered from Frames.co.uk.
At present, this is how my personal home oratory looks.
And here is how I set it up for various feasts.
St Lawrence
Saint Augustine
I was very much inspired by the oval frames with pictures of Saints which I have seen a lot in various churches in Rome, so I decided to look for a nice gold oval frame on eBay, and collected various images of Saints from Google.
Saint John Henry Newman
Corpus Christi
My “Requiem” set-up, in memory of my late grandmother. I have created a black vestment to put on the statue of Our Lady.
A close-up of the black antependium
Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila, a special Marian feast held on the second Sunday of October in the Philippines.
I have recently finished making the gold antependium:
Passion Sunday
Easter Vigil
Candlemas (before the antependia were made)
And finally, this is how I pray before my home altar:
The faux mensa (altar table) where my prayer book stand rests serves as the structure on which I lean and rest my arms as I kneel before it. The altar is built rather low since I’m not a priest, and hence it is more appropriate that I kneel when I say my prayers. This reflects something that I read somewhere, that the altar rails in our churches where the faithful kneel to receive the Blessed Sacrament in the Traditional Latin Mass is called “the altar of the laity”, and altar rails are of course rather low.
You will notice that I pray on the right-hand side of the mensa (ad orientem), the equivalent of the Epistle side of the actual altars of our churches; this is because the Little Office of the BMV contains mostly Psalms from the Old Testament. I only move and change my position to the other side of the mensa (i.e., the Gospel side) when there is a passage or reading from one of the Gospels. This concept of praying on the different sides of my altar mimics the movement of the missal in the traditional Mass. However, if I’m praying a regular prayer book (say, the Little Hymnodic Office of Saint Philip Neri, or any other devotional prayer to a Saint), then I place myself at the center.

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