What’s On Your Mantle?

It’s a rhetorical question, really.  I could also ask: what’s hanging on your wall; what are you wearing around your neck; what does your bumper sticker say?

Once a month, I visit a patient who lives in a B’nai B’rith sponsored family apartment building.  There’s no mistaking that all the families living there are practising Jews.  In every doorway hangs a mezuzah, the sacred parchment stored in a protective case and hung on the doorposts of observant Jewish homes.  On the parchment is inscribed the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) and Vehaya (Deut. 11:13-21).  The Torah commands that the mezuzah be hung on the doorposts to remind the Jewish people of God’s presence and their duty to fulfill His commandments.

We like our homes to express who we are and what we cherish the most.  In my work, I go into many residences.  It’s very easy to notice how people have styled their homes and what their living space says about them.  Everything from financial status to decorating style to a person’s state of health is on display.  In many homes, other than in the Jewish apartment building, there is nothing to show whether the inhabitants have any religious beliefs.

In some parts of the world, subscribing to a religious belief other than the state-sanctioned non-Christian religion makes life very precarious.  Displaying an obvious sign of Christianity could lead to discrimination and physical attacks, even death.  Christians in these countries risk their safety if they hang a cross on the wall.

This is not the case in other parts of the world.  Those of us who live in countries that still claim tolerance tend to take our religious freedom for granted.  So much so that for the most part, we have become complacent and until now have just gone along with the status quo.  So, when the insidious forces of diversity and secularism began to encroach upon our freedom of religion, we weren’t prepared.  Now the fight is on.


A small but significant way of digging in our heels and fighting for religious freedom is by having one or more outward show of Christian belief displayed prominently in our dwellings.  In our home, just past the front door, hang two official blessings from two different Popes:  a family blessing from Pope John-Paul II and a blessing on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary from Pope Benedict XVI.  On our mantle are statues of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph holding the infant Jesus.  A Divine Mercy picture is also displayed along with a pro-life painting of John-Paul II holding a baby.  Above each bedroom doorway hangs a crucifix.  In my modest home office is a statue of St. Therese, my patron saint.  For Christians of other denominations, a cross, a Scripture passage or a family Bible could be proudly displayed.  The point is to have an exterior sign so that anyone who enters will know without a doubt that we are  Christians.

It’s a small thing, I know, and some people may see it as unimportant.  But is it, really?  Maybe it’s one of those things that we have always taken for granted, being able to hang a cross or display the Bible that’s been in the family for generations.  While having an outward sign doesn’t necessarily make us a devout Christian – clothes don’t make the man, after all – it seems to me that we should stop taking this form of freedom for granted.

Perhaps that Scripture quote in needlepoint on the wall, or the cross hanging in our bedrooms, or the Blessed Mother statue serves a deeper purpose.  Perhaps these outward signs remind us that our religious freedom is not to be taken for granted.  Perhaps they are reminders that the fight is on to preserve our Christian beliefs and we are ready and able to take up the cause.

Linking this to Catholic Bloggers Network: 2013 Monthly Link-up Blitz for January

Deo Gratias

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15 Responses to What’s On Your Mantle?

  1. Ryan says:

    We’ve got a very large painting of the Sacred Heart hanging above our dining room table, and I’ve had similar thoughts about its role in our household…

  2. Clare says:

    We have the Vilnius image of Jesus in front of our dining table, and a large crucifix near the front door. I’ve just had framed a beautiful orthodox painting of the BVM and the baby Jesus – am trying to decide the best place to hang it – but it will feature in a prominent place in our home. Make no mistake – we live in a Catholic home! 🙂

  3. reinkat says:

    I agree totally with your opinions here! I think I am covered: a secular friend remarked this past year that our house was beginning to look like a church. We also have a huge angel hanging over our front door, which I once posted about. We call him/her The Guardian Angel of the Birds. With The Guardian Angel and St. Francis of Assisi standing alongside our driveway, there isn’t much doubt!

  4. genericmum says:

    I love to be surrounded by religious paintings and statues – it is a silent, daily Catechism lesson for our children, as well.
    But, it’s strange how it has become acceptable to decorate Western homes with Eastern imagery and statues, such as Buddhas, isn’t it? (No-one would accuse those occupants of being ‘too religious’)
    Catholic icons in our homes immediately identify us as orthodox, practicing Catholics.

  5. LeAnna says:

    I’ve really enjoyed staying with my husband’s Catholic family recently as in virtually every room there is a crucifix or statue of a saint. It is so lovely to have these subtle reminders of the faith visually present to help give strength and support during throughout the day.

  6. dgcree says:

    At the top of the stairs entering my home is a large picture of the Sacred Heart arms extended in welcome. Underneath a plaque which reads “Christ is the head of this house, our welcome guest, a listener to all our conversation.” and below that a crucifix.
    In the lounge I have two small bookcases either side of the TV. on one is a large standing crucifix, on the wall either side is an A4 print of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and a print of Christ holding the gospels. Below are left to right statues of St. Benedict , Our Lady help of Christians and St. Patrick. Underneath there is a statue of the Infant of Prague. On top of the other bookcase there is a print of the Divine Mercy and a statue of St. Theresa on the shelf below there are postcard prints of St. Andrew, St. Patrick, St. John Vianney, St. Joan of Arc. The bedroom is similar.
    I just found a little picture of a small child ( which I love ) lips pursed and fist clenched with the inscription ” Back off, Satan, I belong to Jesus” – says it all really.

  7. Saw this on Catholic Lane first. Love it over there, love it over here. Our house looks like a Catholic gift, according to my husband.

  8. I was a newspaper reporter for many years and when writing profiles, I wanted to see the office or home of the person I was writing about. What that person surrounded themselves with was revealing as to who they were and what their life focus truly was.

  9. lilyboat says:

    I love that you have the Divine Mercy painting. I love it too!

  10. I try to have something religious in virtually every room of the house. (Nothing in the bathrooms yet, but I have a print of Waterhouse’s Annunciation, if we ever get our basement bathroom redone). I think it’s so important to have reminders of Christ all around you. I have a Sacred Heart print I found at a garage sale years ago and have never seen anywhere else. It’s so easy to look at it and send a glance of love God’s way.

    Faith-based education, Carmelite spirituality

  11. We have a beautiful icon of the Holy Family in our living room and the same Divine Mercy painting upstairs between the children’s bedrooms. We also have a couple of handmade El Salvadorean crosses and I have a statue of Mary in my kitchen, which I’ve blogged about here:


    I still would like to get a nice picture of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet – to hang above the nappy change table!

  12. Number 9 says:

    great post–so interesting! i agree with you that having religious items in our homes is a great way to practice our faith. We have a few crosses on the walls, crucifixes in the bedrooms and in the hallway, a holy water font near the back door, st francis out side next to the hydrangeas and Mary in the kitchen. this post makes me want to get more! oh and we have a family blessing from Pope John Paul II on the wall in the family room. that’s it I think.

  13. Great responses to this post, and I feel an affinity with all of them.

    In the times we live in we have to show our allegiance to Christ without any doubt whatsoever, throughout our daily lives and with the memorabilia we choose to adorn our person, cars and our living spaces.

    We had a tradesman once comment on ‘a shrine, what a fantastic idea’, and proceed to scrutinise our sacred space with a smile on his face. We’ve also encountered those who are uncomfortable and make a point of avoiding a glance at our little area for Christ completely…this is really hard to do as our living are is of typical London dimensions!!!

    We have a beautiful picture of Christ at the front door adorned with a cross above it. Each room has a crucifix in it and our little shrine contains:-
    -a trio of Angels, (which we use during monthly prayer group meetings);
    -a framed print of Christ knocking on the door of our heart- a personal favourite;
    – a miniature triptych of Our Lady and the infant Jesus (very special gift from a close friend);
    – two icon prints that we bought in South Africa as newly weds;
    – a collection of different crosses:- 1 for each member of our family, received as gifts from family and friends for Holy Communion/Confirmations celebrations;

    The fact is these items contain so much meaning to us not only because they form part of our devotion to Christ but because they represent different milestones in our lives in our journey through the Sacraments of the Church.

    PS: I still have yet to find a framed poster of Jesus with the little children around Him.

  14. I just had my living room painted, and I haven’t finished putting things back up. (I can’t decide how to arrange it, what wall I want it on, blah blah blah…) but I did put my Crucifix back up, and I put it next to my front door. I put it there so I would see if every time I go out the door, to remind me to be like Christ. I have another one that I will hang next to the side door for the same reason. I have other religious art as well, Wooden plates carved in Poland, one with Mary, the other with Jesus, a plaque with the 10 Commandments and another portrait of Jesus praying in the garden.

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