Happy Summering!!! Growing up in New York, my grandmother and mother would, when I was very little, take me over to the votive candle area in church to light a candle for someone. In all honesty, I had no clue what they were doing. We would kneel there for a little bit and then get up and leave. Now that I really think about it - I never asked them why we were doing that.
In our upper and lower churches - you see votive candle stands and every once in a while, you see people go over to the candles and light a candle and pray for a little bit. Why do we do this? We light candles for people because it represents to God what is going on in our hearts - mainly, our prayers to God rise like the smoke of a burning candle. Psalm 141:2 says: “Let my prayer rise to you like incense.” Lighting a candle for someone is the same as when we use incense at church. Our prayers rise to our Father for the intentions we have in our hearts. It makes sense - God uses the things of this earth in order to communicate with us. Whether that be a rainbow in the Old Testament as a sign of the covenant with the Israelites, or the bread and wine we use at Mass to consecrate which become the Body and Blood of our Lord. Smoke, in the Church, is one way that we communicate with God. “Let my prayer rise like incense to you.”
Now our votive candle stands are mostly set before saints (i.e. Saint John Neumann, St. Rita, etc.). We ask the saints to pray for our intercessions before God because that is their function in Heaven - to pray for us and worship God. If you notice, most of our stands are electric, which still have the effectiveness of our intentions and prayers when lighting a candle. But the imagery of a candle burning is not there. Through the great generosity of our people, we have purchased two new votive candle stands that will give us the flexibility to light a real candle in church for our intentions. You will see them soon enough and I encourage everyone to go and light a candle for someone (electronically or with the new stands). When we leave the candle stand and the candle is still burning - it represents our prayers in our hearts constantly rising to God. Not just one single, momentary prayer, but a constant “knocking” at His door.
Let us take great comfort in seeing all of these votive stands lit and all of these wonderful prayers going to God. This is one way to strengthen our faith together as a parish family. Let us keep each other in prayer long after we leave the doors of the church, and thus we will lead truly blessed lives.
May the Lord give you His peace,