In the past year, the Good Lord has willed that some serious challenges beset my family, challenges which have brought me to my knees in utter dependence, beseeching the Lord for His help and mercy. Our Heavenly Father answers our prayers, perhaps not in the way we expect, but always in the way which is best.
In his wisdom, my spiritual director gave me a blessed 7-day sanctuary candle. “Let the candle burn out,” he advised as he placed the glass-encased candle inside another sturdy, taller glass vessel that protects from accidental fire. The lit, blessed candle, a Catholic sacramental object, sits on the mantle in the heart of my living room, surrounded by our collection of sacred statues. It is here that we gather to pray. Its glow is the last thing we see when we turn out the lights and head upstairs to bed and the first thing we see when we come downstairs in the darkness of the early morning.
How is the blessed candle an answer to my prayers? Catholic sacramental objects such as the blessed candle are symbols of our faith and devotion. Of course, we need to have faith, not in the objects themselves because that would be superstition, but in the Lord’s Providence and the mysterious ways in which He works, including through the blessed sanctuary candle. “The candle will dispel evil spirits,” explained my spiritual director. “I’ve seen it happen.” Are our challenges gone? Not entirely, but there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel as we are reminded by the gentle light from the candle.
February is dedicated to the Holy Family. As I write this on the Feast of Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation, the symbolism of the candlelight as the light of Christ Who came to restore us to God, is clear. God desires that the light of Christ burn brightly within us and that our families be holy. But worldly distractions, influences, problems as well as human weakness make holiness impossible without God. The constant flame burning from blessed candles in our churches, in solemn events and in our homes reminds us, especially in this month of the Holy Family, that holiness in ourselves and our families is absolutely possible if we leave our desire with God. St. Therese of Lisieux prayed: Almighty God, I wish to love You and to make You loved. I desire to accomplish Your Will in every way. In a word, I want to be holy but I feel my powerlessness and I ask You, O my God, to be Yourself my holiness.
In all of our challenges, fears, anxieties, in good times and in bad, we ought to never cease striving for holiness. That is what God wants for us and so that is what we should want, not just for ourselves and our families, but for everyone, the human family of God. As I gaze at the blessed flame that illuminates my living room, I am reminded that with faith and confidence in God, our challenges are surmountable, holiness is attainable for all who thirst for it, and our hopes and desires are in God.
The candle given to me by my spiritual director has long ago burned out. I have since bought cases of 7-day sanctuary candles to ensure that God’s light continues to burn in a symbolic way in our home as a beacon of hope, dispelling the night, protecting my family, providing comfort, increasing our devotion. My spiritual director blesses the candles in Latin because it is the traditional language of Holy Mother Church and the devil hates Latin.
In this month of the Holy Family, consider introducing a blessed sanctuary candle into your home. This Catholic sacramental that dispels the darkness reminds us that no matter what is going on in our lives, holiness is possible, holy families are possible if we let God do His work in and through us. Here is the English translation of the Latin prayer used to bless our sanctuary candle:
O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless these candles at our request. By the power of the holy cross, bestow a heavenly blessing on them, O Lord, Who didst give them to mankind to dispel the gloom. Empowered with the seal of thy holy cross, let the spirits of darkness depart trembling and fly in fear from all places where their light shines, and never more disturb nor molest those who serve thee, the almighty God, Who livest and reignest forevermore. Amen.