The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home

By Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick

David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler’s “The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home”(Sophia Institute Press, $19.95) is an indispensible, comprehensive guide to prayer for the laity—but it is also a meditation on the home itself, the importance of order and the cyclical nature of time. Beautifully and accessibly written, the book is an essential resource for every household.

 The book centers on extending the source and summit of Christian life – the Mass – into daily life through praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the home, with suggestions for prayer in community and prayer at work. They write, “we found the truth of Jesus’ precept that the Christian life comes down to two things: love of God and love of neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). At the center of the first is our worship at Mass; the center of the second is built in the home and radiates outward.”

 Given the importance of the home, the authors begin by discussing the ordinary parts of the home: shelves, toys, bedrooms and orderliness. These seemingly mundane aspects of family life educate children in beauty. They write, “The recognition of beauty moves us to love what we see. We are drawn to it and then beyond its source, God. To be educated in beauty from an early age—with that education of love that the home offers—tends to incline us to serve God and our fellow man with love.”

 The book’s illustrations by Dierdre M. Folley and full-color icons embody beauty, while the authors detail principles of design leave room for personal preference. Beauty is pluralistic, like it is in the natural world. The created world, “the pattern of heaven reflected in the cosmos” educates us in the way of beauty as do the old masters.

 Beauty should infuse the home in general and a space for prayer, in particular. This space for prayer, or oratory as it is called in the catechism, may be a small corner or a home altar, but it is “a place for those things that float around your hosue—the odd statue, the prayer cards, the icons, the rosaries. Gathering them into one place, you will find that they become more than the sum of their parts. They no longer are just things to look at; they become a shrine.”

 After a detailed discussion of how to make a little oratory, the authors outline prayers and devotions that a family may take up—emphasizing that these are suggestions that will fit differently into the life of each family. They encourage families to start by adding one or two more moments of prayer into the day and then see how that fits into the life of the family as a whole.

 The book, which can be read cover-to-cover, or picked up and dipped into one section at a time, would benefit those who would like to deepen the prayer life of their family as well as those who would like to begin. It is essential resource for every Catholic home.

Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance columnist for the Sooner Catholic.