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Home Altars for Catholics

Updated on March 2, 2012

Shrines and Altars for the Catholic Home

As a family prays together, or individuals get practiced in prayer and worship, a special home altar is a very important element in a Catholic home. It is a special place to put precious relics, enthrone particular aspects of the Lord such as Divine Mercy, and creates a spiritual and mystical space for meditating and prayer.

As Catholics mature and treasure more and more the Holy Faith, a carefully dressed out altar can bring profound meaning to your spirituality.


Enshrining Jesus in your home

Where Jesus is, Salvation is.

Jesus has offered to abide with us, telling us he is knocking and seeking. By having a home altar, the Catholic not only invites the Beloved to come to visit the home, but gives Jesus his own place to abide with us.

Enshrining or enthroning Jesus is a special ceremony, whereby Jesus is invited in a special way with the Divine Mercy image or the Sacred Heart image, to become the King, God and Center of the home and the family life.

Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'

In great love, a home altar requests Jesus to become the center of all the hearts in the home, to protect, bless and sanctify the family and the home, and to fill our lamps with the oil of faith and prayer.

In Our Hearts & Our Homes

A Home Altar Creates a Domestic Church

The first churches established by the twelve Apostles were, by necessity, home churches. At Pentecost, it was a privately owned facility where the Blessed Mother and the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus recommends that we go to our 'prayer closets' and pray privately to God.

The original persecution of Christians by necessity forced people to worship in their homes and their catacombs, public worship was an invitation to terrible and brutal forms of martyrdom.

However, even as the Roman Empire fell, and the Church began picking up the pieces, sanctifying buildings, getting support from Constantine and the Holy Sites built, still home churches were an essential part of Christian life.

At that time homes had baptismal fonts, special consecrated vessels for home masses, and other accessories that permitted Bishops and Priests to make rounds for worship; royalty and the wealthy even had their own chapels built; but ALWAYS the Church has been in the humble homes, worship and prayer occurred among families, Holy Scripture was read and prayed regularly, and children were taught, at their parent's knee, the worship that most revered God and all things related to God.

As in the case of Fatima, sometimes special spiritual events are very public. However, such experiences are ALWAYS also profoundly personal and for the Fatima children, something that brought Christ home to them both literally and figuratively. A home altar puts God in the center of a home and family, generates blessings for everyone in the home, and makes a readily available sacred space for anyone in the family to pray their hearts out over family concerns, illnesses, problems and challenges.

Narrow Altar Table? - High and Elegant

Winsome Wood Rochester Console Table with one Drawer Shaker
Winsome Wood Rochester Console Table with one Drawer Shaker

In smaller spaces, a narrow, tall console table can make a beautiful Home Altar for Catholics. The simple Shaker design makes an elegant presentation without taking attention away from your relics and holy items.


Suggested List for basic Home Altars - A Living Part of the Home

There are certain basic items for any home altar, and in addition, you will find things that are specially meaningful for you or your family.

Here is a basic list for Catholics.

  • Large wall or standing Crucifix
  • Two tall candlesticks and blessed candles
  • Large family Bible with Bible stand
  • White altar linens
  • Holy Water vial
  • Holy Relic
  • Seasonal linens and decorations (Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, Lent, Advent)
  • Incense burner
  • Picture of Jesus, Mary or an important Saint
  • Nativity set
  • Prie Dieu or kneeler, one or more than one for group prayer

Times and Seasons in the Holy Year on your Altar

A living Altar sanctifies your year

The true holidays are ALL ABOUT JESUS. They are ALL ABOUT his incarnation, birth, life, death, resurrection and all about His Church.

For over 2000 years the life of the world worked in synchronicity with these holy days, honoring his incarnation during Advent, his birth at Christmas, his blessing to the gentiles at Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas). Our spring season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on our sinfulness and how profoundly we NEED the salvation our Lord provides, through his ministry, suffering, death and resurrection, and therefore on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the GREAT HIGH HOLY DAY of God's love for us.

Pentecost is the Holy celebration of the birth of the Church, the direct action of the Holy Spirit through the church and in the community of God's people.

Our home altar is the place to participate in these great events, draped in purple during Lent, sporting the palms from Palm Sunday, the joyful season of the resurrection, the red of Pentecost, the green of ordinary time, and of course, Christmas.

Our blessed candles create an extraordinary, holy experience in our nighttime prayers, often inspired or urged by our angels, in prayer for the salvation of the world in the middle of the night, 3 a.m.

Our precious home altar brings all these thing into our most intimate spaces, a living expression of the Spirit and Savior.

Holy Relics: Important for Your Home Altar

Especially Catholic and Traditional Practice

The reverence for holy relics began in Scripture, in the Acts of the Apostles and following. There we see that even a handkerchief used by St. Paul healed sick people that touched it, or the shadow of St. Peter passing across the ill generated healings.

Since the beginning of Christianity, therefore, holy relics of saints, or items used by saints, have been included in every single altar of the Church. At St. Peter's, the bronze columns of Bernini's Baldechine contain the relics of 30 to 40,000 martyrs and saints. The Papal Altar has been built directly over the bones of St. Peter, in his grave sarcophagus.

Home altars, too, benefit hugely from the presence of a Holy Relic from a saint, who is then patron to your home.

Don't forget to invite the saints, who make wonderful intecessors and guides!

Beautiful Bookcase Home Altars

Winsome Wood 3-Tier Storage Shelf, Long
Winsome Wood 3-Tier Storage Shelf, Long

Sometimes you have much to pray about and many to pray for. Using a gorgeous bookcase enables you to not only have an Altar but also spaces to put pictures, prayer books, a display of your Holy Bible.

altar incense
altar incense

Incensing your Altar

The Angels take incensed prayer to heaven

Incense is an important part of the prayer experience, not only because of the beauty of the scent, but also because Holy Scripture and the saints tell us that the angels lift our prayers to heaven on the incense.

Using holy incense, such as frankincense, recalls the Epiphany, where gentile wise men gave the precious gift in gratitude. Therefore it is always appropriate to burn incense during your prayer time at the altar. It is a physical AND spiritual experience, one children remember and cherish, and easily creates a total experience of sanctity and the angelic.

There are beautiful incense burners that are safe, reverent, and very special.

Rosewood Altar Table - Suitable to use for a Home Catholic Altar

Oriental Furniture 32" Rosewood Altar Table - Rosewood
Oriental Furniture 32" Rosewood Altar Table - Rosewood

It can be hard to find special, digified and beautiful tables with the distinctive quality of an Altar of Worship. This beautiful table, with the appropriate Catholic linens, candlesticks, statuary and Crucifix, will make a unique prayer space to honor the Living God.


Invitation to the Angels of the Altar

They will pray at your altar as you sleep....

As Scripture shows, there are Angels of the Altars that bring our prayers to heaven. They, as well as the saints who now see God face-to-face, treasure our reverence for the living God, and while we are away or sleeping, will pray for our needs at our home altar.

There are none who love Jesus as do His angels and His saints, and they will populate your altar with you, and when you are away!

Every altar is like Jacob's ladder, a place where the angels ascend and descend.

You can have this incredible blessing of love in your own home, breathing continual new life and protection into your home and family!

Have you thought about or do you have a home altar?

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    • LLMom27 profile image

      LLMom27 4 years ago

      I have an altar. I love it. We gather with all of my children to pray. It really helps me focus.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes i do have a Home Altar, this was started by my grandparents and i continue it, i create my own design of Home Altar for my house as well as for any one who request, my altars resemble like the ancient Church and its kind of hobby for me to design the Home Altars. God Bless , David Paschal

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Ann Hinds: try going to mass or an RCIA class with your friend. you will never regret it I did and now I am a confirmed catholic. after 50 years of other denominations Catholic tradition is the most beautiful faith and most perfect faith anyone could ask for. :) just can't hurt you to learn about it. not at all....good luck friend and God bless.:)

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Great resource lens


    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 6 years ago

      Yes, I do; most of it was my mother & father's (both are no longer with me).

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      good read, always enjoy seeing things like this, its important to believe and be a doer too.

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      This is totally foreign to me (Baptist) but I do have the picture of Jesus. There are some very good ideas for gifts for my Catholic friends to show them that I appreciate their belief system. I am always on the lookout for items that would be meaningful especially when I lack the knowledge and so love it when someone comes along and explains it with examples. Thanks.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Well done - blessed by a travelling angel.

    • JohnMichael2 profile image

      JohnMichael2 6 years ago

      great idea ... thanks for the info

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 6 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Some lovely ideas here that Catholics could easily incorporate into their homes. In my Grandparent's day there would have been a Family Chapel within the house but this is a nice way to incorporate a devotional area in our less spacious times!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I worship at the Altar of God everywhere, but it's cool to have one at home.