Monday, July 1, 2013

This little light of mine...

About every two years, my sister, brother-in-law and I travel to Europe, mostly Italy and France.  Part of our ritual is lighting candles in all the churches we visit.  There, we say prayers for those back home, give thanks for our journey and for those we have met on that journey.  There is something peaceful about this kind of prayer.

As you can see, lighting candles is very popular in Europe even though you are expected to purchase your candle (about $1.35 usually). This particular candle stand is in the cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille.  I watched a young man bring his daughter to this stand, help her light her candle and kneel down next to her to say prayers together.  This in a country where religion is supposed to be dead.

In most of our churches, we have no place to light candles other than those we use in our liturgies.  Often, people see it as a Roman Catholic practice only and don't want to be too "popish" to introduce the tradition to their own parish church.  But I think we would do better to promote lighting candles.  It is a tremendous outward and visible sign of our belief that God hears our prayers and even answers them.

On this last trip, I included a prayer for myself every day.  I have been struggling for the last nine months with a question of vocation.  Is God calling me to stay in my parish or should I move on?  Upon returning home, I walked into St. Christopher's and was overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was home, that this is where I belong.

We all pray.  Some have times of day set aside for spending time in prayer.  Others are less disciplined but no less serious about speaking with God.  Like many priests, my prayers go on most of the day as I encounter people and situations that require conversation with God right that minute.  Every day ends in prayer, too.

But I have discovered - or perhaps finally noticed - that there is something about lighting a candle and taking a few moments to stand in its light while offering up thanksgivings, petitions and intercessions.  I can't really describe it; I can only suggest that you try it.

I have found a place in my house and the perfect table upon which to set up my candle.  I'm thinking of adding an icon - most candle stands in European churches are in front of an altar or statue - and maybe a picture or two of my family.  Then, once a day, I plan to spend a few minutes lighting my candle, saying my prayers and watching the flame.

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