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In the Catholic Tradition... Lighting a Candle in Prayer for Another

I went to mass last weekend to light a candle and pray for someone close to me who is facing serious illness. For those who are not Catholic, this is a tradition of the religion. According to
Ask a Catholic it is explained:

... stands have small banks of candles which people can light (usually within small glass containers, colored or not, and often called "vigil lights"). Often you can find them near a statue or icon of Mary. These are called votive candles and indicate that someone is praying about something particular, either for themselves or on behalf of someone else. The word "votive" can also refer to a promise to pray for someone, as well as a wish or desire for a certain outcome on behalf of someone, such as recovery of health.

While growing up, churches I went to used to offer REAL candles that you lit from a matchstick provided nearby. Today, in contrast, technology has entered the sanctity of the church. Now, little glass jars have a knob you turn to light an electric flame. It used to cost coins or a dollar as a recommended donation to light candles, but today, a little engraved sign recommends $8 (er.... wow... high).

I hope I'm not in trouble for this, but all the electric candles were lit and the ones that weren't were not working. So, I turned off a candle and then turned it on again so it was intended for my friend in prayer. A little sacrilegious? I'm not sure of protocol.

I shared this story to a friend today who later related it to another. Interesting reactions. One was "horrified". My friend was a bit amused about this story and reminded me of a relevant quote:

Your candle doesn't burn brighter when you blow out someone else's.


Jilly said...

doreen, i'm an ex-catholic (nothing wrong with people who have never been or who still are, but it wasn't for me) and i can tell you this, god doesn't care if you got to light an "unused" candle or not, it's the thought/prayer that really counts.

while i'm not a big fan of the looney preachers that shout about damnation and revelations, i am very much a "reformed" thinker re-religion in that i don't think I need to talk to a priest, that i can go right to god if i feel we need a chat. that said, sometimes it's great to talk to someone who's been trained to help us through tough times, and ministers are often these people. not everyone is blessed with the health insurance to go see someone professionally.

your prayer and kind thoughts were well meant and i don't think "putting out" and "re-lighting" the fake candle doomed someone else's prayer. afterall, all the fake candles don't stay lit forever do they?

oh and $8? good lord we're in a recession here! i guess the cost of communion wine went up....


doreenmary said...

Jilly, I totally understand. I, myself, do not consider myself practicing Catholicism. Elements of it, however, have made me who I am. I agree with a "no walls" concept of talking freely to God as you describe. Sometimes I circle back to things that comfort... And I know that I disconnect and connect again with a higher power throughout my life. THanks for the post and the good comments!

Roger D. Curry said...

Disclaimer: My diaconate credentials are, let us be charitable, thin.

God isn't stupid. He didn't forget Prayer One because you turned off a light bulb and turned it back on. Also, I doubt that He needs to see the light bulb to hit Himself on his holy forehead and say, "Oh, golly, Joe Schmo has a crisis that I better tend to!" This would be inconsistent with the knowing the fall of the sparrow thing. The candle, the smoke (in the Native American tradition, that's an important communication-with-Deity image), the Communion Host (this is not Catholic doctrine!) and even the water of an all-out full immersion baptism are not for God's benefit, as I see it. They are ways to turn OUR minds and spirits to Him, not the other way around. I remember an inspiring event. I was swimming in the Tygart River on a summer day. Just that. And was thinking about baptism and renewal and cleansing. No minister, no psalms, just the slow river as a lens for me to see more clearly.