Friday, October 17, 2008

Stuff Catholics Like - Votive Candles

Lighting votive candles in front of an altar or statue is a long standing Catholic tradition.

Most Catholics have lit a votive candle at some point in their life. It may have been when they were young and just used it as an excuse to play with matches (not that my kids would ever do that) or maybe when they were older at a funeral or wedding.

They are lit for many different reasons; for the dead, the living, a sick pet, for a son to get a job and move out of the basement, to get rid of a daughters creepy Goth boyfriend, and that oldie but goodie - a special intention held in the silence of my heart.

The standard procedure is to make a small suggestion donation, light the candle, and then kneel down and say a prayer for the intention desired.

I have know idea what all the colors are for...maybe San Francisco churches

A good picture of Votive Candles in action


Candles were, and are, commonly used to burn before shrines towards which the faithful wish to show special devotion. The candle burning its life out before a statue is no doubt felt in some ill-defined way to be symbolical of prayer and sacrifice. A curious medieval practice was that of offering at any favored shrine a candle or a number of candles equaling in measurement the height of the persons for whom some favor was asked. This was called "measuring to" such or such a saint. The practice can be traced back to the time of St. Radegund (d.587) and later right through the Middle Ages. It was especially common in England and the North of France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

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