Sunday, November 04, 2007

Using up those blessed candles

Catholics over a certain age can remember when every house had a Sick Call Set on the wall in the hallway. I will be grabbing the one off my mother's wall after her death, a pretty walnut crucifix with the requisite candles, holy water bottle, and prayers. Candles play a big part in the arrival of a priest with the Blessed Sacrament - you meet him at the door with a lit candle, to greet the Light of the World.

Keeping "sick call equipment" around the house strikes many people as morbid: the idea of Anointing of the Sick is often terrifying - lots of people think if they get anointed and blessed they will die, right then and there, Amen and Plunk. But it's quite comforting - I was anointed a few months ago for a long-standing problem, which is still a cross to me, but I understand that God blesses us with purifying suffering. It's probably scarier when you're on your way into surgery.

But I had a bright idea related to it. I have a pair of blessed candles I got at church on Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of Mary in the Temple. Nice long beeswax candles. I'd stashed them with my other candles, but wondered what to do with them. They are blessed and I'd feel funny using them for a dinner party, but I don't want to be superstitious or idolatrous and be afraid of using them for any but a "holy purpose."

I had a friend come for breakfast this morning, who has a world of trouble in her family life: multiple deaths, current dying relatives, wayward children, legal problems with foster children, etc, etc. Even her new couch showed up in the wrong color after a two months' wait. I made a nice meal, and duded up the place a little, and I put the candles on the table and lit them when we sat down to breakfast.

She isn't religiously minded, and I didn't tell her, but I silently thought "These candles will remind me to be Christ to her." And it worked - when I was tempted to push a subject away, or gossip, or be mean about someone else who is playing hell with her life, I looked at those burning candles and shut my mouth a little longer and listened with more of my heart.

They will last a long time, because they're beeswax, and I now look forward to lighting them whenever I need a visual reminder to remember Who lives in me.


kc bob said...

You were a good friend Therese.. and a blessing as you shined Christ's light through your life.

Anonymous said...

Roz, I was just writing about sick call sets on a Catholic forum earlier this week! I have both my parents' set and the one we were given for our wedding.

We have a candle blessed every year on Holy Saturday, during the traditional blessing of the food baskets. I light it during family dinners throughout the Easter season. I take a plain white candle and, using permanent markers, add the symbols from the Easter candle. It is a lovely reminder of Christ's sacrifice.

We still have my son's baptismal candle (what few inches remain!). We lit it on his first commmunion day, his confirmation day, and will light it again on his wedding day. If it lasts long enough, perhaps someone will also light it when he receives the last rites.

Christ truly is the light of the world!


Séamas said...

Sorry this comment is a little late...

There is nothing "superstitious" about not using blessed candles for any but holy purposes. Indeed, to do otherwise is a form of sacrilege.

They are blessed, and therefore are sacramentals, like holy water, blessed oils, sacred images, etc. That means they are set apart for God and religious purposes. As such, they should be treated with respect and not used for profane (that is, secular, non-religious) purposes. If a sacramental needs to be disposed of, it should be by burning or burying.

Obviously, it is not the same level of gravity as, say, desecrating the Blessed Sacrament. Nevertheless, what has been set apart for God is holy, and must not be treated as though it is common.

God Bless.



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