Lent at home: Time for a DIY prayer room or meditation corner

Published March 29, 2021, 5:40 PM

by Johannes Chua

It has been a year filled with anxiety, lost opportunities, and belt-tightening (especially those who got laid off or had their business closed). But if there is a “bright side” to all these negativity, it is that a lot of people have become closer to a Higher Being, have bonded tighter with their family, and realized the futility of amassing material things.

This ECQ Season 2 is not the same as its first season since this is more alarming with the rise of COVID cases and new variants. Thus, religious activities, even during this Lenten week, are cancelled once more. Those who regularly attend religious services find themselves at home, waiting for an online mass. Those who make the rounds to visit seven churches are not able to go out, opting to attend online “tours.” And for those who have rituals or panata to observe, they have to make do with whatever is available at home.

With people contemplating mortality and morality during this week, it brings comfort to some that they can just close their eyes and “connect” to God through prayer. For those who are accustomed to going to a church to experience the solemn ambience, it may be the ideal time to have a prayer room or meditation corner in your house. 

“Filipino homes usually don’t have a specific prayer room as compared to homes in predominantly Catholic countries in Europe,” said Florence Ang, an interior designer specializing in residential homes. “It is usually a simple altar, with the Virgin Mary, a crucifix showing Christ on the cross, and other religious items such as a rosary or a Bible.” 

Ang said that the new ECQ—which may be extended until God knows when—has made homeowners “introspective” as they are now looking at their homes and finding ways to improve it. 

“The Lent is a good time to check the religious ‘health’ of every family member and if your house can be a place for prayer, meditation, and contemplation in these anxious times,” said Ang. 

You don’t have to spend much or undergo a major renovation to have a prayer room or area. You don’t even have to own a mansion just to have one. In fact, Ang mentioned that she did a two-bedroom condo project for an expat couple who specifically requested to have a prayer area for them. 

These are some suggestions if you want to have your own prayer room or meditation area at your home 

1. Pinpoint a specific area

It doesn’t have to be a room if you don’t have much space. It can be in the hallway, the end of the stairs leading to the second floor, or even just outside your bedroom. Ang suggested that this area should not be near the home’s busy parts—kitchen, living room, garage, etc. where people come and go. Once you find the area, start with the other design elements.

2. Design with ‘divinity’ in mind

Once you find that room or area, make sure to design it to evoke peace and tranquility. 

“There is no rule, but generally, interior designers prefer soft and neutral tones for spaces like this,” said Ang. “As much as possible, avoid vibrant colors—orange, fuchsia, or yellow—as they bring energy and youthful vibe, which are best for entertainment areas of the house.” 

As for the altar, the focal point of that religious area of your house, it doesn’t have to be elaborate and grand. It may be, as Ang advised, as simple as having a space for a candle (or incense burner). 

“An altar is where your eyes will be drawn to God, so if possible, make it personal. You can use any surface for an altar—an old table, a hanging shelf, a part of a cabinet, etc. Put memorabilia on it to remind you of God’s presence in your life,” said Ang. 

3. Make it functional 

Praying should not be a “punishing” experience. If you kneel to pray, Ang suggested to have some form of carpeting or thick rug to allow you to kneel for a long time. You can also use cushioned mats or foams to make your knees comfortable. 

If part of your ritual is lighting candles or incense, make sure that the area has good ventilation so the smell will not stick on your clothes. Most important, ensure that you have sturdy candle stands. You don’t want an unattended burning candle suddenly dropping to the floor and near a curtain.  

If your prayer area or room is not only for you but for the entire family, make sure there will be space for comfortable seating. Bring some large throw pillows so that everyone can stay, pray, and share for a long period. 

4. Bring in the church ambience

The quarantine affects not only the physical and mental health of people but also religious health. In your prayer area or room, put some inspiring posters and signs, or religious symbols to remind each member of the family of the regular Sunday mass at church.

Replicate the “church experience,” say, by having oil burners, bowls and baskets for offerings, or prayer books, and by turning on sacred music (Spotify has an entire catalogue of religious songs performed by choirs and monks).   

Last, but not least, Ang said that the prayer area can also be decorated with flowers and indoor plants. Aside from health benefits such as detoxifying the air, plants bring in a “refreshing” perspective, conveying that there is a Higher Being in charge of everything that is happening—from the blooming of flowers to the wilting of leaves.