The Catholic Home


“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” Winston Churchill Time 12 Sep 60





In Britain it is unusual for a family to design and have built their own house; it is taken for granted that someone else will define the space in which family life takes place. Developers are being permitted to build ever smaller houses and people are buying more and more things to put into their houses. With many parents both working full-time, there is little spare time or energy to try and impose a kind of order on all of this. With long working hours and parents often having to work both antisocial hours and weekends, families are increasingly eating separately and spending less and less time together at home. The overall pressure is for houses to become ever more cramped, cluttered and disordered, places for being passively entertained rather than for companionship. Many house-holds now have several different sources of music and talk on simultaneously, with the result that there is rarely complete quiet. It is difficult, if not impossible to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of being in control of one’s life if overwhelmed by noise and clutter.


We are all subject to these same pressures, yet it is how we as parents respond to them that determines the outcome for our families. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgement and self mastery- the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” (CCC para 2223 ) “The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach their children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies” (CCC para 2224) This can only happen when parents direct time and resources and energy into founding and continuing to create their own special unique home and make spending time in it not merely alongside but with their children, a non-negociable priority. Clearly this education in the virtues will be not be possible if parents and children spend no time together, things are organised in such a way as to lead the eye continually to a television which is perpetually switched on and the house is habitually filled with clutter and noise. In order to ensure that family life is not simply squeezed out of the household, parents need to make physical space for family time such as a family table or hearth and for prayer, silence intrusions for at least part of their time together each day and design a routine which makes prayer and conversation a daily part of their family life.


As individuals, couples and families, if we have the vision and faith, we can be homemakers. We can make the space in which we live a true reflection of the way in which our family lives its life, to make it truly our territory and therefore to give it the kind of meaning and sense of belonging which is so crucial to our sense of self and of family. A real family Home is a sacred place; sacred because it demands the respect of others for its particular and unique ethos and culture, but also because it is the privileged place in which God calls us to communion with each other and ultimately with himself. The world with all of its assumptions and demands and noise presses in on us continually. If we choose to, we can roll back its influence and create that sacred space, that oasis of calm, belonging, safety and peace in which we can feel we can grow together as a family, spiritually and emotionally, on our own terms and in our own way. In other words, we can create a place which will nurture each individual on their own spiritual journey towards our heavenly home and provide the scope for spiritual, physical, emotional and social growth and the kind of deep companionship we need along the way. A place, in other words in which we are all truly at home.




Suggested ideas;

You might consider;


Creating order


   * identify what category of objects keep tripping you up and designate a place to keep them.

        * decide on a routine which includes every family member in helping do the tasks needed to keep things in their designated places

*having rooted out items that are a block to the well being and development of the family and its members, introducing things which support a child’s learning and integration into the family culture such as ;”  simple frames which enable a child to learn how to button, lace, hook, or tie things together.. washbasins where a child can wash his hands, brooms with which he can sweep the floor, dusters so that he can clean the furniture, brushes for shining his shoes or cleaning his clothes .i.e. objects which invite a child to do something, to carry out a real task with a practical goal to be obtained.” (DOC p64).  “Nothing fancy is required..The room should be furnished very simply, with child sized furnishings”. p14 Basic Montessori by David Gettman. “Montessori Play and Learn” by Lesley Britton has a good chapter setting out some simple suggestions for making a home an environment which supports a child’s learning.




Making space “Space is the breath of art” Frank Lloyd Wright

  • Have a box into which you put things that are no longer needed and empty it regularly by taking it to the charity shop, selling or giving away its contents
  • Doing a domestic audit; mentally clearing out your home of every object and then only reintroducing and keeping those things which you can say support the way of life which you aspire to as a family.
  • Before you buy anything new, ask yourself “Do I really need it and where is it going to go?”
  • Reserve an area in your home, a table or chest of drawers in a place where it can be seen on a daily basis, with a picture of Our Lord or a Statue of Our Lady and some fresh flowers; it will serve as a constant reminder of God’s presence and as an encouragement to meet together and to pray
  • Reorganising your cupboards so that children can have easy access to things needed for every day living such as plates, cups, cutlery, brushes etc. This gives children permission and space to truly belong.


Making peace


  • Having a special house warming gathering, whether or not you have recently moved, and asking your Parish Priest to bless your home
  • Beginning each morning with a time for prayer, asking Our Lord to make our home a place today where we can all grow together and come closer to being the people and the family that he wants us to be.
  • Assess the number and role of gadgets in your home
  • If you listen or watch a morning or evening program involving talk, switching it off or changing to a music station especially one playing classical music. Our decision to switch from the worthy but stressful Radio 4 in the mornings to Radio 3, greatly improved the quality of our life in one easy move. “Slow classical music is associated with more alpha brain-wave activity .[ that is brain wave activity becomes more]. regular, rhythmic, tranquil and organised “ p89 in which  2 there is a tendency for brain wave activity to slow down and become more synchronous… new ideas surface [as it results in ]  improved communication between the left and right hemispheres in both directions, hence the ability to solve problems when relaxed, which seem insoluble when under stress… one of the highest levels of brain-wave coherence ever observed has been from musicians mentally rehearsing their compositions” (the Well Balanced Child p90)”


      Making time


         *Eating together; make this your priority and plan around the family meal

         *Reading “Set Free Childhood” by Martin Large and decide whether and to what extent a television, computer or mobile phone should play a role in your childrens’ lives. This explains why it is primarily the medium of television itself which is poses a significant problem for  a child’s development , rather than merely program content for good or bad. (Stefano Mazzeo, Catholics Unplug your televisions CUT Llananno, Powys

          *Considering switching the ringer off on the telephone and turning on the answering machine for at least part of the time they spend together

          *firmly setting aside a couple of hours each week when you can be at home together as a family and during which time you do the things necessary for the smooth running of your home.



  • make each child a special rug.

For each of our children I bought a 1.5 meter square piece of cotton print and a 1.5 meter square piece of fluffy material (our older daughter chose her own when she could not yet talk but could point with great emphasis). I then sewed them together with large cable stitches; the result is a rug which they can sleep under, make tents under wrap themselves up in when they play and say morning prayers and ultimately take away with them when they leave home to remind them of how much they are loved.



  • Consider baking bread like the bread Our Lady made; kneading dough together is great fun and making your own sourdough starter a wonderful project for parents to do with young children, who love to see the dough rise in its flour bed. If the starter is nurtured well it can last for years. The children may even when they leave home  want to take some of the original starter with them that they helped make as children.


Questions to ponder