6 Elements of a Holy Home
Every room in a house fulfills certain needs. Some fill physical needs, like eating in the kitchen or sleeping in the bedroom. Others fill psychological and emotional needs, like conversations in the living room or leisure in the den. But the home as a whole fills a deep spiritual need - it gives us a place to belong as we travel through life towards our heavenly home.
Given the importance of the home, the manner in which we decorate, organize, and maintain our houses has vital significance for all who dwell there. Inspired by Theology of Home, we have compiled a few ideal elements of every room to help homemakers furnish and utilize each room to its full potential, so that each room in turn might aid in the physical and spiritual growth of the people who live within its walls. We hope to provide a bit of theological background and home-related philosophy (although, for a deeper dive we HIGHLY recommend reading ToH!), but more importantly to offer practical suggestions for how to execute these ideas in your own homes in ways that are manageable, affordable, and effective.
Is there anything better than natural light? It’s good for your home, good for your health, and good for your soul. From a Catholic perspective, Christ himself is often called the Light - filling our homes with light is like filling our homes with Him!
Maximize the natural light in every room. Frame the windows with curtains, use mirrors to reflect light from small windows, and let the light flood your home. Rather than letting your house be lit by the constant blue light of screens, use bright lamps, hanging lights, and candles to illuminate your home by day. Mirror the outside cycles of light inside your house - let the sun bring light into your house before turning on all the lights (tricky if your kids wake up at 5 AM like mine do!) and dim your indoor lights as the day draws to a close. Your body & soul will thank you! You need that internal rhythm and the Church has recognized this for years by attaching her most ancient prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, to times of the day all originally based around the sun’s light.
When we moved to a new house, we tried to have something living (besides the people!) in every room. Whether a plant or a pet or a floral bouquet, living things appropriately bring life to a space. Including potted plants or flower arrangements in your decor purifies air quality, absorbs toxins, and has even been shown to boost moods and reduce stress. Not to mention the beauty they provide! Additionally, you can reap immense physiological and spiritual benefits from committing to the care of another being, even if that being isn’t human. As Catholics, especially, we obviously prioritize the care of PEOPLE, but being responsible for the health and well-being of pets or plants can provide immense opportunity for growth, especially for children! Just think of how great saints like Francis or Assisi or Philip Neri treated animals or St. Therese with her roses.
So, maybe challenge yourself, too, to include living things in your home. Get a fish tank. Cut fresh flowers weekly to keep on your dining room table. Try out a few house plants on your window sills. Pope St. John Paul the Great said, “Our very contact with nature has deep restorative power” - it is important that we glorify God by taking care of His creation.
The fundamental need for order is intrinsic in humans. Now, I’m not just talking about neatness, tidiness, or organization (although there’s certainly a place for those things!) but rather, about order - the arrangement of things in relationship to other things. Order in the home means everything has a place. The world is chaotic, so we need home to be a place where we can be safe, find comfort, and make sense of the rest of the world. An ordered home allows its dwellers to grow. Dr. Jordan Peterson, renowned speaker and psychologist-turned-philosopher, gives order as one of his “12 Rules for Life”: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” If you can set your own house in order, Dr. Peterson says, you will chase deceit, arrogance, and resentment out of your life.
St. Bernard said, “Preserve order, and order will preserve you.” There’s no need to go alphabetize your DVD collection or give your t-shirt drawer the Marie Kondo treatment. Instead, try to ensure that everything in your house has a home. Make the order in your home easily restorable (by children or adults!) so that you can quickly tidy and restore peace when needed. Use bins and baskets to manage clutter so you can keep clean lines. Visual order will help you maintain internal order. Work hard to have items in close proximity with one another have a similar meaning or shared function. Maybe placing certain toys next to each other on the shelf will enhance your child’s idea of how they could be played with together. The possibilities of your stuff working for you are endless!
For all people, young and old, it’s important that we situate ourselves in history. In remembering where we came from and what we’re a part of, we may be encouraged to keep in mind the mark we hope to leave for those who come after us and strengthened by the community by which we are surrounded. This is so crucial as Catholics: we look to the saints, the Church Fathers, and our Catholic ancestors as examples of purity and holiness. We are a Church built on Tradition and the Body of Christ, a family.
Bring reminders of history into your home. Frame pictures of grandparents or ancestors. Hang maps of places you’ve lived or areas of the world that are important to your family. Keep heirlooms in a place of honor, rather than tucked away in a keepsake box. Feature remembrances of the Church and of sacraments as a legacy to place yourself in the timeline of salvation history and unite yourself to the body of the faithful!
There’s an argument to be made that homes aren’t physical places at all, but rather are made up of the people in a family who grow together, in any space, and move through life as one unit. They are connected by love and loyalty, sometimes by blood and always by choice. When decorating a physical space, it helps to keep that in mind.
Let family photos adorn your walls and shelves. Display artwork done by littles and let them help decorate their bedrooms or playrooms. Honor family patron saints in artwork or statues. Focus on the people that bring a home to life!
This is a big one. As Catholics, we are called to be in the world but not of the world, and it’s important that our homes reflect that this is our temporary dwelling place. So, no matter your style, don’t let Christ (or His mother or His saints!) be absent from your home.
No need to go overboard - your home doesn’t need to look like a church - but it IS the domestic church, so include reminders of that in your home! A crucifix in every room is a great place to start. Enshrine Mary in a special place of honor, to remind you and your family of her constant love and intercession. There are plenty of small ways to make your home holy - prints of bible verses or saints, holy water fonts at the doors, rosaries made accessible, even a prayer table if possible.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m not an interior designer or a theologian, but I have certainly been inspired by those who are experts on the matter, and I have experienced the power of a holy home in the houses of those I know and love. Just as the home begins with the love between the people of which it’s composed, the physical manifestation of this love can be made present from the very beginning in any way you choose. I hope that this has been helpful in your visualization of how you want to proceed. Now, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and see where the Spirit takes you in the making of your very own holy home!