Last month we were blessed to have an Enthronement Ceremony in our home, enshrining images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on our home altar in a newly designated chapel area for prayer. We received the beautiful images as gifts from the priest who did the Enthronement for us. While we previously had an image of the Sacred Heart in our home we had never had an actual Enthronement or Consecration to the Two Hearts. Prior to the Enthronement, this priest had given a talk at church to the Holy Name Society discussing the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart and Enthronement of the images in the home. As Mary Rose put it quite succinctly in a recent letter to one of her pen pals, "Father said it is especially needed in these times because we live in a pagan society and for extra protection against demons." That sums it up rather nicely!
The priest advised us that preparation for the Enthronement should be both spiritual and temporal. The entire family should be together for the ceremony. They should attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion on the chosen day. Preparation should be made in the home, making ready a place for a home altar and if possibly a dedicated chapel space for family as well as individual prayer.
We already had a home altar area, where we had various statues displayed along with a crucifix and where we prayed our nightly rosary. But it was not in an ideal location, and we wanted to attempt to set aside an exclusively dedicated prayer area as Father recommended. And so we spent some time and energy preparing things; we knew rearranging things and devising a new setting would have a greater impact on the family and help to signify the importance and magnitude of the Enthronement. While we do not have a separate room to make into an actual chapel we spent some time reconfiguring our furniture and figuring out an array that allowed for a chapel area within our current living space. Father said there should be a place in the home so that if a priest came in to say Mass a suitable altar would be ready for him.
Father also suggested white linens for the altar, and so the evening before the ceremony I made a quick trip to the fabric store and Josiah kindly sewed new white linen cloths for the altar, making them to fit just so.
The linens were made to drape to the floor on the sides and with a generous overhang in front, similar to altar linens at church. While these are very plain, Father said to do what we can and continue to improve and make the altar more beautiful in future as we are able. I am hoping to find some nice lace to eventually trim the linens.
The Enthronement Ceremony is itself very beautiful. The altar is prepared with linens and candles and awaits the images. The family gathers elsewhere with the images, with candles lit there as well. Father had already blessed our pictures on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, but a priest would bless them at this time if they had not already been done so. Then the family processes through the house to the altar while reciting the Apostle's Creed together, with the Father leading carrying the Sacred Heart followed by the Mother carrying the Immaculate Heart and then followed by the children in order of age. This was very moving! Such a great privilege of my vocation to be carrying the image of Our Lady before my family.
Then the images were placed on the altar. Father read Luke 19:1-10 and then gave a short talk on the devotion. Some quotes:
"When you go into a Catholic church building, the first thing that catches your eye is the sanctuary lamp, reminding you that Jesus dwells in this place. Then in the very center of the sanctuary you see an altar, and on the altar a tabernacle. Our Faith teaches us that in that tabernacle dwells the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the God-Man Jesus Christ.
If anyone should enter this home at this moment, they would indeed think they were in a little church. Here, in the most important room in this house, you have erected an altar. On it is an image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We would like to have the privilege of keeping the Blessed Sacrament right in our own home, as did the early Christians. But since that is not possible, we display an image of His Heart, the symbol of the love that keeps Him in our churches day and night.
Before this image you should try to keep a light or candle burning, or at least some flowers so that when you pass by, or visitors enter, they will be reminded that you have here a shrine, and that Jesus occupies the place of honor in your home.
Let us do everything we can to make our home from now on a real church. Make it a holy place, a place of prayer. Gather everyday around this special altar to pray together, as for example, when you pray your family Rosary. And renew your acts of Consecration regularly, especially on liturgical and family celebrations.
A church is a sacred place. No sin should enter therein. There should be no offenses against purity or charity in this little church. Remember, it is the dwelling place of Jesus, even though you cannot see Him. He is the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener at every conversation.
You may think these ideals are impossible to attain. But nothing is impossible with the help of divine grace. And you are going to receive many special graces from now on, particularly if you try to live your Enthronement by not becoming tainted or influenced with the ways of the world."
He went on to remind us of some of the promises made by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary regarding those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart.The talk was followed by the prayers of Consecration of the family to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, and concluded with a Prayer of Thanksgiving. As I said, it is important for all family members to be present, and any not able to be present, including those passed on are recalled. It is recommended that the Consecration be renewed regularly, traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart be practiced such as the Nine First Fridays, making acts of reparation, and keeping night vigil in the home at least once a month.
It really struck me that Father advocated for our homes to look like a little church. We often hear or use the term 'Ecclesia Domestica' - the home is the Domestic Church, and so it is fitting that in some way it should look like one. Much to my children's chagrin we do not actually have pews and stained glass and a bell tower :-), but we strove to create a chapel area working with what we do have. Thus you can see below the arrangement in part of our living/family room:
We now refer to this area as 'the chapel', and you can see that the back of the couch makes for a marked off rectangular space. The altar is kept very simply decorated as Father recommended there not be a lot of statues and other items which while nice, can be rather distracting. He liked our arrangement of St. Joseph and St. Anne with the Child Mary, and our relics of St. Francis and other saints in the center, just as church altars have relics in them. A wood crucifix naturally remains central to all. The chest to the right has extra candles, rosaries, Bibles and a missal.The images displayed on our altar are very vivid and compelling, and they naturally draw the eye to them many times throughout the day. I don't believe anyone passes by them without some acknowledgement; a nod of the head or a brief aspiration is offered many times throughout the day. Everyone treats this as an actual chapel, an area solely for prayer. Once again I defer to Mary Rose's words: 'Some weeks ago we had two images of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts enthroned in our home. We set aside an area to be the 'chapel', and it's nice because you can go and pray there anytime and no one's allowed to talk to you or anything.' Imagine that! In a lively and busy household of nine there is a place right in the center of things where one can pray uninterrupted, and no one will talk to you or interrupt you! We naturally walk through the chapel to get to the other part of the room, but there is no talking or chatting in that space.
After just a month or so the Enthronement has been a great blessing to our family and we are most grateful to the priest who offered to do it for us. Do prayerfully consider having your priest conduct an Enthronement Ceremony in your home, consecrating your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Father also noted that if you move to a new house a new Enthronement should be done.
A summary is here: Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Catholic Culture and you can listen to a Sermon on Enthronement and Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Audio Sancto.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Edited 1/4/15 to add:
Our home altar now looks like this, with the addition of beautiful Cluny Lace added to the linens-