Monday, February 08, 2010


My husband's cousin, a good friend of mine, became a realtor in the last couple of years. At one point, we were considering a move back to our home area, and she was showing me a couple of houses. The one I liked best was owned by an Italian-American, Catholic couple in their early nineties.  That they were Italian was obvious, to me, because of the decorating scheme, the lace curtains and plastic table cover, the propriety of the kitchen, the double wall ovens, the family portrait of them from 45 years ago, and as cousin pointed out, the "Catholic pictures" all over the house.

Now this cousin happens to have been brought up Catholic but joined a Protestant church in her early 20's. As such, she is a wonderful example of charitable Christian virtue, but does not feel the Catholic church is quite a valid branch of Christianity.  We have discussions about this from time to time, as you might imagine.

So when she made the comment about the "Catholic pictures", which portrayed, along with Jesus, the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph and a host of other saints, I stopped to reflect on the idea that one used to be able to tell immediately if they had entered a Catholic home, by what was on the walls. 

The biggest giveaway would undoubtedly be a crucifix hanging somewhere.  Then, you might see a statue of the BVM, or even Saint Anthony. Or holy cards stuck onto dresser mirrors. Maybe even a small holy water font hanging in a bedroom.  In the neighborhood where I grew up, many people even had small shrines set up in the yard for Mary, surrounded by flowers and pretty stones.

Though this is still most often the case in the homes of elderly Catholic folks, it probably does not figure prominently in the homes of most Catholics today. Except in mine. And I'm flirting heavily with "elderly" now anyways, but most baby boomers would probably not have this kind of thing, either.

Pictured above is a painting of the Holy Family, which hangs in our foyer.  Notice the palms stuck up on top of it, from last year's Palm Sunday mass. The rest of the house contains a couple of crucifixes, and the aforementioned statuary, holy cards, and even the little font. 

In the back yard, my husband has built a fountain, and next to it, is Saint Anthony.  Come to think of it, a lot of non-Catholics do allow Saint Francis into their back yards, he being a nature lover and all, and so he has become a cross-over yard decoration, much as someone like Faith Hill or Shania Twain have successfully made the crossover from country music to pop.

I guess it might seem kind of corny to have these things up, even to fellow Catholics. And maybe even offensive to others. I don't know, but I do know I find it comforting and inspiring to have these holy reminders around me. And I guess I am not ashamed to self-identify. Most importantly, though, is I feel that people who live in a home are influenced by what surrounds them in that home. And I pray that what surrounds my family and visitors would comfort, influence, remind and inspire them. 

So, welcome to my home and may the love, peace and joy which the Holy Family enjoyed dwell in each home and heart today.


  1. Anonymous10:35 AM

    This is lovely, Emmarinda. And the rest of your home looks very pretty!


  2. Anonymous11:07 PM

    Immediately when you walk into my home, you see a painted tile, much as if Spanish influenced, on the wall opposite the entry way. On it are painted the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, together. It is surrounded with curved black wrought-iron that has a small cross at the top. As soon as I saw it in a little shop I knew it had to go into my home. It would have to be among the first things anyone sees upon entering my home.

    I find most people look, but do not comment on it. Even Catholics.

    We also have the crucifix and font in different bedrooms.

    To me it is a reminder of who I am, and of how I have tried to raise my children. My home belongs to God and I want it to reflect his purposes.

    PS I'm almost 47.

  3. I would love to see the tile with the "Two Hearts". I bet it is lovely. I, too, have noticed that people will look but not comment - even Catholics. Perhaps they are just taking things in on a subliminal level - which also suits me just fine!

    "My home belongs to God and I want it to reflect his purposes". Amen to that!

  4. Arlene J.8:49 PM

    My daughter-in-law who is not Catholic, but a church going Christian told me. "Mom these decorations are scary, especially all of the ones in Granny's house." I have to tell you I was surprised because I am so used to having them for all these years and cherishing them. I thought about that conversation for days. I went over and over it in my mind and wondered what would happen to my statues, paintings, etc. when I am no longer around.

  5. "I went over and over it in my mind and wondered what would happen to my statues, paintings, etc. when I am no longer around."

    I bet you can probably guess, Arlene. You might want to stipulate somewhere that they should be donated to a Catholic nursing home or school, or some type or Catholic ministry.

    Its interesting that people would find something like that scary, when folks these days have a pretty hefty tolerance for the truly horrific when it comes to TV, movies and Halloween decorations.

  6. Emmarinda, thank you for describing the Catholic art in your home. As you know, I'll be entering the church this Easter, so all of this is new in practice to me. The picture of the Holy Family is lovely.

    In the beginning of my journey to Catholicism, I had a bit of a struggle incorporating little Catholic touches in my home. Honestly, I was uncomfortable with it. I think this is because of my Presbyterian upbringing.

    Now I feel so very comfortable with it all. As of now, I have a little Image of Divine Mercy hanging on the wall between the kitchen and dining room, an Our Lady of Fatima candle on the kitchen ledge, rosaries in bowls or hanging on bedposts, a cross above my son's bed and one he made hanging by his door, a silver crucifix hanging above our family altar, and a few holy cards here and there.

    I even had a funny moment at a flea market a while back, when I saw what I thought was the prettiest little holy water fount. I turned over the price tag only to discover it was a birdbath!

  7. Thanks for your comments, Jenny. I will be praying for you as you enter the Church this Easter. I can just imagine how the differences must have seemed strange to you at first. I like to think of our Catholic faith as being a multi-sensory experience, in which we use plenty of "object lessons". When we stand, sit, and kneel at different times, or look upon the beautiful paintings and statues, or smell the incense, we are worshiping with our whole bodies. I find this very meaningful.

  8. Anonymous1:10 AM

    Emmarinda, that is exactly what we are doing. Catholics worship with our whole bodies. Human beings are a unity of spirit and matter. Our bodies (matter, comprising senses) are as much a part of our worship as is our spirit. Correct me if you know more.


  9. You said it very well. One might be very young, very old, illiterate, blind or mentally handicapped, but
    can still be catechized and enriched by some aspects of the many faceted jewel of Catholic worship.

  10. Anonymous1:43 AM

    I am not Catholic but also have crosses and pictures and Bible verses on our walls. I remember many of my Italian Catholic neighbors also had family altars in their homes.I thought it all beautiful and very special. Two of the crosses I love the most are ones from my Grandparents. Yes you are so right...I see less homes with religious figures or pictures now a days. When I was growing up it was very ordinary in all homes. Sarah


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