Home practice way of life for Syro-Malabar Catholics

  • A vendor near a Syro-Malabar church in central Kerala sells images for Catholic homes.
  • A family's shrine in Kerala occupies the central room of the house. Family members gather in the evening to pray aloud and silently together.
  • An image of the sacred heart in the entry room of a family home in Kerala. The garlands in the back room grace pictures of deceased family members.
  • Pictures of deceased loved ones, here with a brass oil lamp, hold places of honor and remembrance at home.
  • A shop in Kerala sells brass vessels, mostly for the home. Devi refers to the divine, or to sacred vessels for holy oil, which are ubiquitous in India, and have a place in almost all Catholic homes and churches.
  • In many parts of Kerala, an image of the sacred heart is a common sight over the front doors of Catholics.
  • A bible and brass cross in the living room of a home in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
  • Pouring oil over a cross is a popular form of devotion in Syro-Malabar churches.

For Syro-Malabar Catholics, as for other Indians, religious life is abundantly evident in homes. Religious images are found in many rooms in the house, often integrated with images of deceased loved ones. Homes may feature religious pictures, small or larger brass oil lamps with a cross on top (a variation on the ubiquitous brass oil lamps in Hindu homes) and dedicated shrines with a whole array of images on a tabletop or wall. Visually and practically, it is difficult to distinguish the home images of a Syro-Malabar Catholic from a Syro-Malankara or a Latin rite Catholic. Images often apply a very bright, Indian color palette to otherwise European-styled images of the Sacred Heart, the Holy Family, St. Jude, the Divine Mercy image. Images, such as St. George or icons of the Virgin, also speak to Syrian Christian and Orthodox connections.

Shrines in homes can be small or elaborate, and are usually located in a central hallway, dining room or sitting room.  Families gather to pray there in the evening, often with a scripture reading, before or after dinner. Family prayer at home generally combines bible reading, rosary, other devotional prayers, and shared quiet.

In parts of central Kerala, it is also common to see images of the Sacred Heart over the doorway to Syro-Malabar Catholic homes.