Votive Prayer Candles

Are prayer candles for special intentions no longer used? Our church doesn’t have them and neither do any of our sister churches. If they are no longer used, why not?

Unfortunately, the use of the votive candles has been fading in the last few decades, for different reasons. It could be security or fire safety regulations, or the architecture of the newer churches do not allow for it or even lack of interest on the part of the parishioners. Of course, there is no reason why you can’t burn votive candles in your home, at a home altar.

If the churches in your area don’t use them it is probably for safety of fire code reasons. The churches around here all have racks of votive candles in regular use. As a family we frequently burn 3-day votive candles for specific prayer intentions. I buy the candles (in glass holders with the Sacred Heart, Mary, Joseph, or another Saint on them) at a local Hispanic market.

Currently, we have racks of votive candles at my parish. :heaven:

We have candles at our church.

As I am learning about the Catholic faith and beginning RCIA next week :slight_smile: I have a lot of questions.

What is meant by prayer intentions? and who may use the candles? and who may they be used for?


Insurance has caused many Churches to remove them :frowning:

“Prayer intentions” is another way of saying that one is praying for something(s) specific. Such as: It is my intention to pray for the poor souls in purgatory tonight so my prayer intention is the poor souls.

Anyone may use candles. And I found an article from the St. Anthony Messenger that will explain the why.

The Sight of burning votive candles -real or electronic - is common in most Catholic churches. The candles are usually placed before statues of saints or at shrines. But how did this tradition get its start?

According to A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals, by Ann Ball (Our Sunday Visitor Books), the practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably has its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means “waiting” or “watching”) are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed.

Lighting a candle is a way of extending one’s prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

After the 9/11 tragedy, lit candles figured prominently in a televised concert affirming the power of goodness over the darkness of evil. The symbolism was similar to the Catholic custom of lighting candles as a form of prayer.

Source: “St. Anthony Messenger” Septmber 2003, Page 26

Thank you for explaining and for posting part of the article. Both are helpful. I expect the candles were set back in their places yesterday. They were removed over the Easter weekend. I noticed they were not there on Friday and of course, on Saturday night.


The candles being removed for Good friday and Holy Saturday until the vigil is different than them not being there at all. That was probably done in order to emphase the penitential mood of the day (just as we don’t have holy water). There was probably also a bit of ‘spring cleaning’ done around the candle racks as a very practical aspect to removing them.

They are very much in use here and i’m in a majority protestant area. Most of the churches here have them. They are required to be real candles, they are usually exempt from fire codes, but actually are very safe when placed properly and parents watch their children when in the church.

They are used heavily in our church.

We have plenty in my parish, at the Sacred Heart, Mary, and St. Joseph statues. The Cathedral has lots too. Of the other parishes around - some do, some don’t. One modern parish I visited last week had only two candles in the whole nave/sanctuary (except a sanctuary lamp way off to the side by the Tabernacle chapel) and they’re not even by the altar. That parish does have nice Mary and Joseph statues (also a Resurrectifix-type thing…) but no candles near them.

Who established the requirement that they have to be real candles? I have been in several churches that had rather realistic looking electric “candles.”

I also have seen the “electric version” also, some shrines are also installing them. There were some documents posted on a prior discussion, and they all were worded to imply real candles and a “living flame”. It also included the use of “Oil lamps” which are non-electric. Church documents also suggest that the “old” oils of Sacred Chrism, Catechumens, and the Infirm be burned in the Sanctuary lamp.

We have them in our main church and in our chapel. They are heavily used. I also saw them being used at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, my fiancee and I light one there when we where in New Orleans for a visit.

We have them also and they are used religiously:D!

We have large racks of them in front of each of the four statues in the sanctuary at our new parish. The ones in front of St. Jude and Our Lady of Guadalupe get a lot of attention. At our old parish there were only two small stands of them in the smaller historic chapel on the church grounds, but they were still heavily used.

We keep a prayer candle (usually with the image of a saint on it) burning on our stove at all times. My (Mexican-American) husband is a cradle Catholic and picked up this habit from his mother. I’m not sure if it is a cultural thing or not, but I love the devotion. I usually find our candles at Wal-Mart, the 99cent store, or at a Hispanic market (ask where the veladoras are). They usually cost between 1 and 2 dollars.

My parish has candles, not not the tiny votive candles, but larger ones. You have to ask the usher for one, for the cost of a donation. Our sister parish has larger candles out in racks. However, most of the churches in my area do not have votive candles. Which is sad, since I love them.

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