Thursday, October 20, 2011

How to Create a Sacred Space

At first, this information was included in my outline on the Ecclesial Method of catechesis, but it made the outline too cumbersome. As a result, I decided instead to devote a separate post to this topic.

What Is a Sacred Space?
  • A sacred space is a prominent place in the room that draws the attention of the students, through various signs and symbols, to the mystery that is being proclaimed
  • It typically involves a small table on which is placed a crucifix, a bible, a candle (real or battery-powered), and any other sacramentals and visual cues that pertain to the catechesis for that day
  • Families can also have a sacred space in the home, to give family members a place to pray together or to facilitate celebration of the liturgical year. In this case, a shelf or a fireplace mantle can also serve as a lovely sacred space.

How Do I Create One?
  • The crucifix should be the largest object on the table, so as to emphasize the singular importance of what Christ did for us.
    • It is the crucifixion that makes every catechetical endeavor even possible.
    • Ultimately, catechesis is about a relationship with this Jesus who died for us
    • Everything we believe as Catholics is Christ-centered
  • The Bible is displayed in order to communicate the significance of God's Word.
    • It also tells them: this is the place where the Word is proclaimed.
    • The Bible can be placed in a book stand, so that it is presented to the students and they can see what type of book it is.
    • It can be closed, or turned to the first passage you will be citing in your teaching
    • Make sure the Bible you display is a nice, regal edition.
    • It is good to use this Bible throughout your teaching, unless placing and removing it from the stand is too awkward
  • The table cloth should be the color of the current liturgical season
    • This keeps the students oriented within the liturgical year
    • Green for Ordinary Time, Purple/Violet for Lent and Advent, White for Christmas and Easter and All Saints' Day, Red for Pentecost or the Feast Day of a martyr, Rose for Gaudete Sunday (third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (fourth Sunday of Lent), Black for All Souls' Day
    • Cloth should be of fine material, nice, and not wrinkled.
  • Include great works of art
    • Paintings, icons, and sculpture communicate what is beautiful about a teaching
    • Children in particular learn a lot more from beautiful illustrations then from your own words
    • Examples: Michelangelo's God Creates Adam for a catechesis on Creation, his Pieta for a catechesis on Mary as the Mother of God, Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper for a catechesis on the Eucharist or the Paschal Mystery or the Mass, a statue of St. Michael the Archangel for a catechesis on Sin and Temptation or the Fall of the Angels or the Communion of Saints
    • For more on the importance of injecting beauty into your teaching and your sacred space, see Beauty and Catechesis

Final Thoughts
  • Teach from your sacred space.
    • As you proceed to various points in your catechesis, utilize any objects from your space that would help to illustrate or communicate that point.
    • For works of art, you can even do a mini-catechesis on what is going on in a particular painting, and how it illustrates your teaching
  • At home, a sacred space isn't always feasible if you have little ones crawling and climbing around. In that case, create a portable one! Place your sacred space objects in a box and bring it out whenever it's time to pray together as a family
  • Children could also create their own sacred spaces in a corner or table in their rooms.
  • Be creative! What you can do with your sacred space is limited only by your imagination (and these guidelines, of course!).
  • God gave you your imagination, and He loves it when you use it to pray.

Pax Christi,

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