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I Want A Medieval Family Chapel

My husband loves history. It doesn't matter the era or location, he just loves to learn about the people, what they were doing, and how they were doing it. As a result, I get to watch a lot of documentaries, exploration and treasure hunting, and archeology shows.

Our most recent binge-watching interest has been the British show Time Team. The premise for the 1990's show has real archeologists spending their weekends digging up England's history. Often this includes finding the locations of medieval churches. Knowing those early churches were Catholic helps keep my attention.

I am fascinated every time they find a cornerstone, identify the walls and arches that have been incorporated into current homes while the rest of the building was demolished, and even find remanents of stained glass in the soil.

It's actually led to some holy envy on my part. (This is what a dear friend calls it when she covets someone else's holiness.) I have learned that it was common for families to have private chapels during the medieval period. Of course, they were people of station and wealth to afford the construction of an extra building on their property. But, they had one!

They built an actual church in or next to their homes. I imagine how priests would celebrate Mass and they would have a monstrance for adoration any time they wanted. Faith was a daily expression in their lives just like work, chores, and childrearing.

I get how average people didn't have this luxury. They were too busy eeking out an existence just to feed and clothe their family. In a way, this explains why community churches were so ornate. It was easier to pool money from everyone to create beauty in a shared space than it was to build your own chapel.

Knowing all this does not stymie my desire for building my own little slice of private devotion space. The current cost of lumber, on the other hand, does. The very idea of having a holy space so close I can walk from one room to the next draws me, especially since I have a 35-minute drive for Mass on Sundays.

Alas, I will have to concentrate on making our entire home a holy space, focusing on our little domestic church. Making it a place where we encounter Christ in one another, where we pray and help one another along the path to holiness.

I will learn to be content with my indoor and outdoor prayer spaces, forgoing the urge to build a chapel. I will continue to value the holy art we have as a visual reminder to work at emulating the saints in our daily interactions, as well as practice charity at home first and foremost.

I will resist the temptation to hire a stonemason!

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