Earlier this year, I spent many weeks carefully reading The Little Oratory by David Clayton and Leila Lawler, and I promised that I would write an actual review when I finished. I find that those things most important to me, or that have the greatest impact, are the hardest to write about. The last few months have been an absolute blur, and I didn’t want to do a haphazard job of sharing my thoughts about The Little Oratory. Over the course of these months I did, however, take lots of pictures of our own little prayer table as we created it, as you can see!
I’ve long been a fan of Leila’s, having gotten to know her through her must-read blog, Like Mother, Like Daughter. The thought of an entire book written by Leila almost seemed too good to be true. But in fact, that wasn’t the case. It really is that good. As far as books written to encourage and instruct go, I find that they are often overwhelming. Rather than being encouraged, I find myself discouraged, knowing that there is no way that I will be able to make the author’s suggestions come to life in my very busy household. But Leila obviously understands that well, having raised her own large family. Reading The Little Oratory didn’t overwhelm me, it didn’t make me feel inadequate. I also didn’t walk away feeling like I needed to start a dozen new things. The simple act of creating a designated space in our home that focuses on our faith was very attainable for me.
In this book about building a prayer life with your family, Leila gently instructs. Every step of the way she is careful not to pressure, overwhelm, or even worse, cause the reader to feel ashamed of his or her own perceived inadequacies. She holds your hand. This topic, the sharing of our faith and prayer life with our children, I believe it’s a sensitive one. Attempting to hand down my faith and model it for my children is both my first priority, and the one that is easiest to neglect. I’m thankful for Leila’s practical advice, her gentle encouragement. My family’s prayer life is always evolving as we search for the rhythm that best suits our needs. I suspect that as our children grow and change, so will our prayer habits.
Elizabeth Foss and Leila Lawler recorded a wonderful series of podcasts covering some of the chapters in The Little Oratory. You can find the first in the series here, along with links to the others. I highly recommend listening to these as you read the book! My favorite chapter in the book is, “The Family and the Home.” It’s full of really lovely and practical advice for the home. My second favorite chapter is “The Liturgical Year.” The chapter opens with a discussion of the different types of time that God gives us. The fact that He didn’t just give us a day, but actually created other ways to mark time such as the changing seasons in many parts of the world. My favorite passage from that chapter speaks of the way that, “The rhythm of growth, bounty, fading glory, and cold death” mirror our spiritual life in nature. I found these words to be quite affirming as I find this especially true for myself. I have learned to expect my emotions to evolve and change with the seasons and the liturgical calendar. It’s not a coincidence that the forty days of Lent often line up with the last forty days of winter barrenness.
We placed our own little oratory next to our front door, thinking that a good place for it, but also not having many other choices in our small space. I loved that Leila gave plenty of tips for creating a prayer corner, without making me feel like I had to do things “just so.” We have done what works for us, and I am very pleased with it. I was given a small broken table a few years ago, and it has sat waiting for a leg ever since. As I began reading The Little Oratory, I knew that almost forgotten table’s purpose at last! Jonny fashioned a pine leg and attached it before repairing the doors, and I gave it a coat of paint. Inside, I now store all of my children’s Catholic books along with prayer cards and rosaries. I love having one place for all of these items to be gathered. I tried keeping candles on the table for a time, but they have since been put away until Job is older. While I waited to order icons for our table I framed some of David Clayton’s printed icons that are included at the back of The Little Oratory. They are really quite nice, especially considering the fact that they are a standard part of the book. Eventually though, I ordered icons from Legacy Icons and I am very pleased with them! They are very beautiful and well made and have held up to periodically finding themselves on the floor thanks to little ones. I ordered the “standard” icons, waiting until there was a sale advertised on Legacy Icons’ Facebook page. Our antique crucifix was found in this shop.
And finally, because I purchased my own, and was given an additional copy of The Little Oratory by the publisher, Sophia Institute Press,
I have an extra copy to give to one of you! If you’d like to win, mention so in your comment, and I will randomly select a winner next week.
The winner is Adri, who commented, “I’ve followed LMLD and love them, thanks! Would love the book little oratory…”