Electronic Votive Candles?

I wasn’t sure if this was the right forum for this, but here goes my question…

I work in a parish office and found out that our priest is possibly implementing an electronic votive candle system and has started collecting donations for it. While normally I do not question my priest’s decisions on liturgical issues, I was wondering if it is liturgically sound to use electronic candles for votive candles.

Our parish will not be switching to all electronic candles to use during Mass, just for the votive candles. The reasoning I have heard is because of wax issues, etc.

If I remember correctly from a theology class I had last year, real candles (with a certain amount of beeswax) must be used for Mass. But I just wasn’t sure if that also applies to votive candles.

Thank you for your answers ahead of time. I greatly appreciate it.

My Parish in NYC shifted over to these electronic votive lights several years ago, mainly because the insurance on the church building went out of sight because of “unattended open fire” in it. The Parish could not afford the increased premiums, so they had little choice but to accept the new votive lights.
Of course, there are still the candles on the altar during Mass, the Exposition of the Holy Euchrist and Benediction - as well as the votive light when the Euchrist is in the Tabernacle. However, these are considered “attended” lights by the insurance companies.
The funny thing is that there has not been a Catholic Church fire in NYC attributable to votive candles in living memory!!!
But, as many of you know, you can’t argue with an insurance company, nor can you sue them and expect anyone to ever again to insure you.

Here is an article from 1987 according to which it is possible to implement them.

Specifications are in force for altar candles or any candles used in the liturgy of the church. More than half of the material in those candles must be beeswax, according to church rules, because it burns cleanly and brightly, Since beeswax is expensive and fairly scarce, manufacturers obey the letter of the law by making the liturgical candles with 51 percent beeswax.
Votive candles, on the other hand, are not part of the formal liturgy of the church and their makeup is not specified.

St. Mary’s Church, Downtown, uses both electric votive candles, above, and traditional wax candles, at left. The choice of votive candles is up to each church pastor, according to Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese officials.

Kind of yuck, but understandable. Fake candles will never replace the smoky scent and soft crackles of burning beeswax, wicks and matches!

Definitely agree. there’s something more mystical about striking a match and the flame on a (real) candle slowly forming around the wick. The soundlessness of an electric light starting to glow just can’t compete.

That said, there are plety of churches (and cathedrals) around Europe which use the electronic kind (not Orthodox or Easter-rite I might add) probably becuase they’re easier to monitor (or perhaps not monitor) and cheaper in that they rarely need replacing and require very little ongoing maintenance.

Incidentally, at the shrine to Our Lady at Fatima there is a very large, outdoor stand for votive candles which one can buy in all sorts of sizes. These of course burn down and the melting wax from the candles on the upper tier (the larger candles in particular) drips onto the lower causing all sorts of contortions and mini-infernos! This made me think about the candles as representative of our sins and flawed nature - the light of Christ slowly consumes all that is impure in our lives, causing it to melt away until eventually nothing more remains.

Our parish does not have votive candles and never has, to my knowledge. I think they are a nice practice, but only if there were real candles and not the electric ones. I’m surprised more parishes haven’t just stopped the practice. :shrug:

Electronic candles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all equally tacky, from flicker lights in glass cups in America, to automotive bulbs in plastic cups in Ireland, to night light bulbs screwed into fake candles in Italy (including several units in St. Peter’s and other Roman parishes). At least one doesn’t find many electronic bells in Europe.

We have the plastic electronic ones because someone in our parsih thought it was a great idea to build some kind of decorative grotto out of paper bags around the painting over the original natural votives. FIRE!!! So now you press a button and you get 2 hrs of light for 2 bucks.

Or the explosion of glass when the candles burn all the way down and the glass gets too hot. I think I counted 6 candle holder explosions during low Mass a few days ago.

Electric just sounds tacky. What is it about the other candles (ie: the sanctuary candle) that makes them attended by the insurance company.

You’d think they’d be more concerned about someone accidentally leaving the stove on in the parish kitchen.

What a rip off. At my parish you get 6 hours minimum of real flame for only a dollar, or 7 days for $7 with an intention.

I agree. I just don’t know how the parishioners will react to switching to an electronic candle system. My parish tends toward more traditional practices. I mean, we just renovated our church to look similar to how it used to be (high altars with 5 ft. tall statues of saints, communion rail, etc.).

I feel electronic candles may somehow cheapen or take away some of the value of a real candle. But I’m sure it’ll be fine. :shrug:

I wish there was an emoticon that would accurately express how this made me laugh out loud so hard that I frightened my household!!!

its called fire code and insurance.

Unattended Fire + Old Wood in Churches = Burnt down Church at some point

Yet it seems more churches are burnt down because of stoves being left on…

I was just talking with a friend of mine about this yesterday. Her husband is very ill and I went to light a candle for him. We have the electrical ones too. I struggled with what to say to her “I lit a candle for your husband or rather, I pressed a button for your husband.” We had a good laugh over it.

We ended up agreeing that I pressed God’s buttons for her husband.

I understand the reason why we no longer have real votive candles, but there’s nothing like a real flame. This was somewhat silly to my kids. “What do you mean mom, press a button for Jesus?” :wink:

I am not buying the insurance excuse. I happen to know what our parish’s yearly insurance bill and how much we bring in from votive candles each year. If I was to guess, the votive candle take would be cut in half ( at least ) if they were fake. If my guess is correct about the reduction, the insurance bill would have to drop by a third to make up for the reduced revenue. We bring in quite a bit on votive candles and I actually think it would drop to almost nothing with fake ones, so the savings would have to be much greater still on the insurance.

Of course, insurance varies a lot state to state, but parishes who do it around here have to have other motives, as all parishes use the same insurance negotiated by the diocese.

Preaching to the choir already here :rolleyes:. Our church did burn down (partly) quite a few years ago. That is why our church was renovated. However, we no longer have carpet that can set on fire. The place where the votive candles are there is no wood to burn.

If we went back to building traditional churches out of stone and concrete, we wouldn’t have to worry about this as much.

Question: Is it the glow of the candle that raises our prayers to heaven, the wisp of smoke and rising warmth or the fact the candle is in the church building that raises them? If it’s the glow I’ll simply say a prayer every time I turn on a light at home! Other than being a very old custom, what is the purpose of the votive candles?

This is my point that there are other motives: people look at votive candles as superstitious and are embarrassed by them, so lets find a way to get rid of them. Asking a question, which you may be serious about, in this form is an indication that you really just want to ridicule them. Well, a lot of very devout people use them, and take them quite seriously. Just as we take other sacramental (eg rosaries, holy water) quite seriously. So don’t belittle us.

Votive candles are a visible sign of our prayers, they tare a sign of our vigilance to continue to pray for a cause. They represent a commitment to continue the petition so dear to us. They are a sacramental, they underscore the Church’s deeply held conviction that all of creation is a potential medium for the revelation of god’s presence and blessing.

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