Susan Rainville, a member of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary/St. Louis Parish in Swanton and Highgate Center, had long wanted to set up a special place dedicated to prayer in her Highgate Center home.

So after her daughter set up such a space in her own home after public Masses were suspended in the Diocese of Burlington because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rainville decided to follow suit. “I felt the need to be more connected and part of the Mass. Not being present in the church, there was something missing,” Rainville said.

She shared a photo of her “domestic church” after watching a recent online presentation from the Diocese of Burlington.

Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life for the Diocese of Burlington, said his office is welcoming others to submit photos of their home shrines/domestic churches/prayer spaces for consideration for use in some of the Diocese of Burlington’s social media posts.

“The Church has always sought to foster and encourage the ‘domestic church,’” he said. “What a beautiful opportunity to creatively build our domestic churches during this time.”

Rainville set up her domestic church beneath the television in the living room of her open-floor-plan home, visible from the kitchen, dining room and entrance.

“This isn’t exactly the area in my home that I intended my prayer space to be, but with the stay- at-home order and our churches being closed because of the Covid-19 virus, this was the most practical place to set up so we could view the Mass on television,” she said.

She watches Mass and prays the rosary and other prayers every day in this space. “Lighting the candles helps to bring a sense of my presence at the liturgy. The Bible is opened to the day’s Gospel reading,” she said, noting that her oldest son’s family lives next door to us, and they join her and her husband for Sunday Mass and occasionally for other services.

Such a prayer space is important to have in one’s home, especially now. “It is too easy to become distracted with other things when we are not in our normal setting, and also it reminds us that even though our space of worship is very different now, it is still essential to do,” said Valerie Parzyck, administrative assistant for evangelization, catechesis, marriage and family, respect life and worship. “If we didn’t have these spaces, it may be too easy to forget and start to leave the ‘Sacred Sunday’ part of our pre-quarantined past behind.”

Rainville’s domestic church has evolved over a period of weeks. The first week that public Masses were suspended, it was just one candle lit and chairs set up in a semi-circle for the grandchildren.

The second week in she added a crucifix, two candles with rosaries and a Bible and stand. For Palm Sunday she used a red table covering, two vases with palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service and a picture of Jesus head with a crown of thorns. For Easter Sunday the red table covering was replaced with a white one, and the palms were replaced with potted flowers.

She added a painting of the empty tomb that she painted at a Paint and Pray event All Saints Church in Richford a few of years ago.

“Going forward I plan on bringing back the red table covering for the Feast of Pentecost and also using the appropriate liturgical colors for the other seasons of the Church year,” she said. “I am enjoying this space so much that I plan on keeping it going indefinitely.”

Parzyck, who also has a prayer space in her home, emphasized how useful it has been for her family. “Having that in the house at all times is a constant reminder of our faith. We are much more likely to pick up a rosary and start to pray or read a scripture passage if it is right in front of our eyes,” she said.

In one house she lived in the prayer table was near the front door. “Anyone who came to my house saw it as soon as they entered. As they stood in the entryway, they couldn’t help but notice it, many times asking questions about what was on there,” she said.

And it was an important part of her children’s faith life. “I am a strong believer that if we infiltrate our everyday life with little bits of faith, we will remain strong in it. My children are now 19 and 15, and I believe they will always have that strong backbone of their faith because of the little ways it was presented to them in their daily life.”

To share your photos of your domestic church/prayer space, send them to vparzyck@vermontcatholic.org.

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