Friday, August 23, 2019

'Twas a Starry Night

My stencils finally came in, so we got stars painted on the blue background.  Please pardon the mixing of liturgical colors in this photo series.  When I started it was the Memorial of St. Rose, so we had white.... by the time I finished it was after evening prayer and in preparation for the Feast of St. Bartholomew, and I had already switched the chalice veil to red...

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Which I Draw Arches

I friend of ours was concerned that there was not enough western influence in our budding chapel, so he gave me a book on Gothic Art.

I did some math, played with a few styles of Gothic arches, and ended up here...  It is sized for the eventual altar I want to build... and it needs stars... and another coat of pain.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Peace of Space, Up in Smoke

(No children were harmed by the excessive amount of incense it took to get this picture, just like this.)

After all, we are a blog about the Domestic Church...

The second hardest thing, in my opinion, about building the prayer life of your family, of your Domestic Church, is creating a place apart to pray.  (The hardest thing, of course, is actually taking the time to pray, but that is a topic for another day.)

I have no doubt that there are very holy families that do not have a prayer space, prayer corner, etc., but dollars to donuts it is easier in the long run.  Our pastor here, Fr. Jerabek wrote an excellent article on the topic of home chapels:  Having a Home Chapel. If there was any question on our stance, we are keen on the idea.

I have mentioned it elsewhere, but we have had some prayer corner of some sort in each of our homes since we got married, and I always had a space set aside in my classrooms when I taught.  If nothing else, there is often a need to step aside from our busy lives and go somewhere safe.  I do think it begs the question of how to make that space set apart.

It is easy enough to say that sacred art, a kneeler, a Crucifix, candles, etc are sufficient; but it can be difficult to give children that sense of space.  We are lucky enough, now, to have a room set aside as a chapel, but we still have to remind the kids not to run though, not to eat, not to drag their dirty shoes through, and the like.  It was even more difficult with "dual use space."

OK, don't freak out on me and go all asthmatic...

Here I would make the argument for incense.  No, before we start, I'm not saying burn incense every day, or every time you pray as a family, or even every week. Incense can give a sense of place and a bit of peace to the space your family prays in.

Another caveat, I am a Novus Ordo Latin rite Catholic.  While I certainly appreciate the Extraordinary Form, it is not my regular form of worship.  I am heavily influenced by the Eastern Churches, particularly the slavic Byzantines, but I am a Latin.  The reason I make this clear is that some of the nuances and interpretations of the use of incense differ slightly as you move across the different Ritual Churches in the Catholic Church, not to mention the Orthodox Churches.

Don't lose me now, just a smidge of history...

Jews and Christians have used incense for millenia in the worship of God, not to mention many other religions using it in their ritual worship.

We can see in Exodus the exact instructions for burning incense:

For burning incense you shall make an altar of acacia wood,a
with a square surface, a cubit long, a cubit wide, and two cubits high, with horns that are of one piece with it.
Its grate on top, its walls on all four sides, and its horns you shall plate with pure gold. Put a gold molding around it.
Underneath the molding you shall put gold rings, two on one side and two on the opposite side, as holders for the poles used in carrying it.
Make the poles, too, of acacia wood and plate them with gold.
This altar you are to place in front of the veil that hangs before the ark of the covenant where I will meet you.

On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps,
and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the regular incense offering before the LORD.
On this altar you shall not offer up any profane incense, or any burnt offering or grain offering; nor shall you pour out a libation upon it.
Once a year Aaron shall purge its horns. Throughout your generations he is to purge it once a year with the blood of the atoning purification offering. This altar is most sacred to the LORD.

Exodus 30:1-10

There was an explicit recipe for the aforementioned specific group to use.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part),  and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy;  and you shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy. And the incense which you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves; it shall be for you holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.” 

Exodus 30:34-38

We can see more of the theology behind the use of incense in Psalm 141

Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice

In the modern Catholic Church, grains of incense are used in the the building of a new altar, in the preparation of the Easter Candle, instructions are in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for incense to be used at most official functions and actions of the Church.

An important change should be noted that while the Jews offered incense as a sacrifice, we are more in line with the Psalmist, using incense to symbolize and visualize our prayers rising to heaven.  The one, necessary, sacrifice has already been made for all.

I'm not a theologian or a member of the magisterium, take what I say with a grain of... incense...

From our various faith traditions, we see the importance of incense to the point of some Patriarchs insisting that they should jealously guard their use of incense and use it wherever possible.  

In the west, incense was probably not used much in the lay home until the last 60-70 years.  In part due to cost, and also the tradition just wasn't there. More and more people are burning incense, and we are seeing an increase in the liturgical use, as well.  It seems we went 20 years or so, where it just wasn't used, except at funerals... I could be wrong, just my 2 cents. 

I recently exchanged a slew of emails between various Latin and Byzantine clerics and a couple of liturgists about how to interpret the rubrics for home use, and the conclusion is fairly simple:

There are no official instructions from the magisterium as to the official use of incense in the domestic church.


Don't get me wrong, the use is encouraged and allowed, but the Priests actions of blessing and purification simple don't have an equivalent for home use.  Furthermore, we no longer have the restrictions imposed by the levitical laws on who and what may use what and how.  On top of that, it is right and proper to bless one's children (although traditionally done with the tracing of a cross on the forehead.)  

Ooooooo kayyy...where are we going with this...

Like starting a new diet, you need to include your Doctor; starting a new spiritual practice you need to consult your spiritual father, whether that is your pastor, or spiritual director.  

I can tell you what we are doing, and what helps use to be more prayerful, I'm not saying it is THE liturgical practice for the Domestic Church.  I encourage you to evaluate the needs and prayer life of your family and do what seems sensible to you.  One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a Sub-Deacon in Philadelphia "If it's going to make you scrupulous or cause scandal, throw it out".  In that, don't be me and stress out about it, and don't pretend to be a priest.

Our main family prayer time is Vespers, shortly before the kids go to bed.  We will light the censer above (note: a thurible is a censer with chains, and a thurifer is the one who carries it... does that make the one who carries a hand censer, a censationalist?)  I put a little bit of incense in the censer before we start prayer.  Then our oldest son rings the bell, and we start.  SOMETIMES, I will stoke it up and add incense before the Gospel Canticle, since that is where incense is used in Solemn Vespers with a bishop/priest/deacon, but I don't cense anything.  We burn incense on feast days, solemnities, and some Sundays.

But wait, there's Myrrh

The next step for us is to take the traditional Litany of Saints and modify it a bit with our patron Saints and then the boy and I will process around the chapel with candle and incense and bow at each of the Saint's images as we pray for their intercession.  No actual censing, but a nice link between the idea of icons as windows to heaven, and prayers rising up with the incense.

Any last minute comments, critiquest, criticisms... compliments?

Start small.  The resource page has several places that sell both censers and incense.  Don't get a thurible (the liturgical one... the one with chains.)  I would recommend starting with an Ethiopian frankincense.  It is light, traditional, and really won't bother most people's airways.

Sometimes, even in our house, the censer get sent to the fume hood after prayer......

Pax et Bonum!
-The Voborils

Friday, July 26, 2019

New Candles

The two big 1.5" candles on either side of our family altar were getting rather low.

And, there is nothing like a new pair of 12" candles to start the evening.   These are hand dipped "tapers" that are 1.5" at their largest.  These came from St. Andrew's (look in resources if interested.)  They are one of the few places, I know of, that will make a candle this thick ... hand dipped.  I am on the fence, and we shall see if we get these particular ones again.  I am intrigued by the hand dipped idea of it.... but I also like super straight flawless pillars.  Thoughts?

It might look like an light unbleached beeswax, but they call this "ivory"

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you.

We are very proud of our Czech heritage and have always had a devotion in one way or another to the Infant of Prague.  We have always had a small statue here or there, but have really doubled down in recent months.

For the uninitiated, the story goes that the small wood carved, wax covered, statue had once belonged to St. Theresa of Avila, and was given at one point from a Spanish Princess to her Austrian cousin.  Discarded in war time, it was rediscovered, broken, by a Carmelite.  He fixed the hands and kept it in a place of honor.

In 1637, as Fr. Cyril prayed before the Infant, contemplating the loving God Who became a child for His people. The statue spoke

"Have mercy on Me and I will have mercy on you.
Give Me hands and I will give you peace.
The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you."
The statue is now preserved in the Carmelite Church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague. There you can find more history, prayers, devotionals, and excellent copies of the statue.

Fast Forward to recent history... A few months ago I was praying for peace.  We have three beautiful children and they fill every corner of my heart, and it was looking like we were not going to be able to have any more.  We both came from large families and would love to have more, but I was praying for peace and contentment with the whole situation.

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI

O my Lord Jesus, we gaze on You as a child and believe that You are the Son of God, who became Man through the working of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

Just as in Bethlehem, we too, adore You, with Mary, Joseph, the angels and the shepherds, and acknowledge You as our only Saviour.

You became poor to enrich us with Your poverty. Grant that we may never forget the poor and all those who suffer.

Protect our families, bless all the children of the world and grant that the love You have brought us may always reign amongst us and lead us to a happier life.

Grant, O Jesus, that all may recognize the truth of Your birth, so that all may know that You have come to bring to the whole human family light, joy and peace.

You are God, who live and reign with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Used during his visit at the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague on the 26th September 2009

I also sent in a prayer request to the Church where the Infant of Prague is enshrined, to be prayed for during Mass the next day.  Three weeks later, Hannah came to me that she thought she might be pregnant, she was very nervous and did not want to get her hopes up.  I told her we would take a pregnancy test on Sunday, and that everything would be ok.  She has asked "What if I'm not, I'll be devastated"  I told her if that was the case, I would take her out to breakfast and we would take a relaxing day together as a family.  ... but if she was, I told her we had better get a good statue of the Infant of Prague to place in our Chapel.

We have prayed the following Novena everyday since we found out, for a health happy baby!!!

Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague
In nine days, we want to remember Jesus’ childhood and allow him to impact and change our lives. Ultimately, these are things that touch us. Jesus came into this world and became a child for every single one of us. He knows all of us by name. Every day, the Novena offers us a childhood characteristic, which at first glance might look like a limitation, but which may be just the opposite…

Day 1 – Smallness
Jesus, you became a child; you became little even though you are the infinitely great God. By doing this you showed us where true greatness lies. You teach us that we do not need to behave in a superior way for you to notice us and be interested in us. We want to accept our limitations and draw on our gifts. Let us appreciate the little things that create our life and recognise our infinite value.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man and lived a human life from beginning to end. You understand us completely without us needing to say a word. You accept us even if we are not perfect. You reach down to us to raise us up and to make us strong and brave. Please, heal our hearts and fill our life with peace, happiness and hope. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

Day 2 – Frailty
Jesus, you took on the frailty of a child. We have all experienced the fact that our life is very fragile. Even a tiny thing can destroy our relationships, our health, our dreams, or our self-esteem. You know our fragility, you take it into account and yet and do not cease to hold us dear. Teach us to live with the awareness of our own fragility and not to forget the dignity that we have in your eyes.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 3 – Poverty
Jesus, you came to this world as a poor child. You did not even have a roof over your head. You, to whom the whole universe belongs. Your awareness of being the beloved Son of God was your wealth. We also experience poverty, material or spiritual – helplessness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Let this always be an opportunity to discover our true wealth: our awareness of having you.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 4 – Vulnerability
Jesus, you were not afraid to become a vulnerable child. We were also harmed in different ways – by clumsiness, misunderstanding, indifference, or even deliberately. We carry many of our injuries through our life. We do not know how to deal with them and so we hurt others. Send us those who will lead us in healing. We have hope that our injuries can be healed.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 5 – Dependence on others
Jesus, like every child, you were dependent on others, on their care, closeness and solicitude. Like you, we cannot survive without others. We need you and need each other. We learn that loneliness does not feel good. Heal our relationships so that we may come out of isolation and give ourselves to others with joy.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 6 – Playfulness
Jesus, playfulness and imagination were definitely part of your childhood. It is enough to watch children for a while to realise that play is often more important than “serious” work. Let us be able to be as fully in the present moment as a child absorbed in play. Let us be inspired by the truthfulness and commitment of a playing child. Let us be able to sometimes allow ourselves not to take ourselves too seriously and to be able to dream.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 7 – Weakness
Jesus, almighty God, only love could have made you take on helplessness and become a weak child. You never wanted to use violence because it is not possible to win human hearts by power. Do not let our weakness lead us into desperation, after all, we know it is part of life. It teaches us to be patient, to pray, to be humble and wise. Only in weakness can we truly meet other people and build friendship and trust.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 8 – Trust
Jesus, as a child you put yourself into the hands of Mary and Joseph. You have the same trust in all people and in us. Sometimes we forget that our life is in good hands, no matter what is happening. We are overcome by baseless fear and worries that bind us. When we watch you, little King, we cannot be afraid of you. Let our life be governed by trust and not by fear.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Day 9 – Growth
Jesus, as a child you grew and became stronger in both body and spirit. We are also invited to grow into the fullness you created us into. Let us not focus on past mistakes and wrongs but instead look toward what is ahead of us. Let us discover the possibilities you send to our life and enable us to use them creatively. Let us allow our lives to bloom into full beauty.

The Lord’s Prayer – Hail Mary – Glory to the Father

Lord Jesus, you became man…

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

USCCB Tools for Building a Domestic Church

An excellent resource that is worth reposting from the USCCB

According to the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: “The family, is so to speak, the domestic church.” (Lumen Gentium #11) This means that it is in the context of the family that we first learn who God is and to prayerfully seek His will for us. In the following bullet points you will find some suggestions on how to build your “domestic church” through a life of prayer that can help all the members of your family.

Begin praying as a family and reading from Scripture daily, certainly before meals, but also first thing in the morning or before bed. Find a time that works for your family. Use the liturgy of the Church as a model for prayer, and try to include heartfelt unstructured prayer as well.

  • Pray a Family Rosary (each member leads a decade, and everyone shares intentions).
  • Have a crucifix in a prominent place in the home, and in every bedroom.
  • Make the Sacraments a regular celebration – take the whole family to Confession and Mass!
  • Begin family traditions based on the seasons celebrated in the liturgical calendar.
  • Make your vacation a holy pilgrimage by visiting the shrines and saints of our land and the world.
  • Make worshiping God a priority. Never miss Mass, even while traveling – go to: to find a church near you!
  • For more ideas on how to build your home as a Domestic Church, go to: or visit The Family Fully Alive, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
  • Teach stewardship and charity to your children, through word and example.
  • Demonstrate love for your spouse, your children, your neighbors, and the world. Remind their children that they are loved by God and have been given gifts to serve others.
  • Talk freely about the presence of God in the joys and sorrows of your life.
  • Welcome into your home and support priests, brothers, sisters, deacons, and lay ministers in the Church.
  • Participate in the lay ministries and activities of your parish community.
  • Allow your children to witness you in private prayer. Encourage your children to pray daily on their own, to listen for God’s call, and if heard, to respond.