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Prayer Life Hack: Light a Candle

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This article was written by Deanna Bartalini and edited by Amy Brooks.

I reached out to one of our talented writers and podcasters, Deanna Bartalini, and asked her to write a post about why Catholics use candles while they pray or worship.

Deanna is the founder of Live Not Lukewarm, which is an incredible ministry that encourages all of us to love God more fully.  Her first response to the idea of candles brought her back to a memory of a church building . . .

Deanna Bartalini, author of “Invite the Holy Spirit into Your Life: Growing in Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control”

“I open the heavy door and the first thing I am aware of is the scent of candles; I’m certain this is what heaven smells like. I move to the alcove where the candle rack is and feel the heat of all the candles. I breathe deeply and look up at the image of Our Lady, find an unlit candle and light it. I kneel down as I bless myself and I begin to pray.”

Why do we use candles when we worship and pray, not only in church buildings but in our homes too?

We see Scripture pointing to the use of light for different purposes and as a sign of Christ.

CORDA Candles *the light of the saints for the domestic church*

Here are a few examples:

  • In 1 Maccabees we hear about the lampstands which illuminate the sanctuary of the temple.
  • Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”
  • Jesus tells us that he is the Light of the World (Jn 8:12).
  • Revelation 1 describes seven gold lampstands and a man who walks among them.

Where do Catholics use candles for worship and prayer . . . and why?

In a Catholic church, there are many places where candles are used.

The most visible candle, is the sanctuary lamp. It is usually red and always lit as the reminder the Eucharist is present in the tabernacle. The only time it is not lit is from the end of the Holy Thursday liturgy until the hosts are once again placed in the tabernacle at the Easter Vigil.

Other candles are placed near or on the altar and by the ambo where the readings and Gospel are proclaimed.

These candles remind us to pay attention to what is going on during the Mass. In some places, the altar servers will stand holding candles while the Gospel is proclaimed. The candles add reverence to the Word.

During different seasons of the liturgical year we will see other candles in use.

The Advent season, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, there is usually an Advent wreath with purple and rose candles.

During the Easter season, from the Easter Vigil to Pentecost, the Paschal Candle, with from the Easter Vigil fire is in the sanctuary and lit for Mass. That candle is also used at each Baptism celebrated, when newly baptized are given a candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ.

Another place we may see candles are in front of statues or images of Jesus, Mary or the saints. Those candles can be different sizes and held in a variety of holders.

At home, or domestic church, candles are used to pray and worship.

One time of year that many of us use candles is during Advent when we have Advent wreaths in our home.

But candles can be used at anytime. Lighting a candle to begin our prayer time helps us focus.

It is a small ritual we can take to slow down, breathe and focus on Jesus.

A burning candle points us to the light of Christ that is within us, to the Word that we pray with and to Jesus Himself.

Why do Catholic Christians light these candles?

They serve as reminders to us that prayers are being offered and the intercession of Mary or the saints has been requested.

Catholicism is full of very tangible actions we can take, uniting our physical world with the spiritual.

Candles point us to Christ. Just as He is the Light, we are called to bring the Light to others. Candles light the darkness.

They call us to a place outside of ourselves.


What are some ways I can use candles during prayer?

Here are a few ways to use candles in prayer; wax or battery are fine, use what is best for your family.

These shrines come with a battery operated candle which gives the image of the saint a beautiful glow.

During your personal prayer time, light a candle to officially begin that prayer time.

Place a lit candle and photograph for someone’s birthday, baptism day, on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. When you pass by, pray for the person.

Set up a votive candle rosary, as you pray each prayer, light a candle.

In November, when we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day, keep a candle lit for the whole month as a reminder to pray for the dead.


Candles are a great way to excite children about prayer and worship!

Kids love candles.  If they are a little older, let them light the candle before praying.  If they are younger, let them blow out the candle when prayer is done.

Christine Henderson, owner and creator of Faith and Puppets, did a great video on why Catholics use candles when they pray!

It’s only about 2 minutes in length – watch it here (but gather the little ones first!)


Purchase Deanna Bartalini’s book on Amazon!

Do you love the smell of candles during prayer?  The Little Catholic Box has dedicated this month subscription box to those wonderful smells!

Smell those scents you love in your car, around your wrist and in your kitchen!

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Thank you to our author, Deanna Bartalini for this article! Follow Deanna Bartalini on Instagram at @deannabartalini