What are the small votives for?

Underneath Mary and Joseph, there are racks of small candles in red glass jars.
What are these and how are they used?

Also, I see a donation box. Is it okay to simply add money to my tithing contribution to cover the costs of any candles I light instead of paying there (I’m always afraid that it might give the impression I am paying for the prayer, instead of for the candle I’ve used up).

When can I light these and what are the reasons to do so?

When I light one, do I leave it burning or do I blow it out?

Any other etiquette rules that I should understand?

Thanks for helping me understand!

Robin

We offer prayers and intentions when lighting a candle for ourselves or someone in need.
The collection box covers the cost of the candles specifically. Unless you designate in a separate envelope (for candles I lit) the money won’t help defray the cost.

You don’t blow them out. Your intentions stay before the Lord or in honor of Our Lady as long as the candle lasts.

It’s a pious custom in Catholic churches. Many people say “I’ll light a candle for you” as a way of showing others that we are vigilant in our prayers for them.

Someone, a volunteer or a church employee replaces them as they are spent.
A typical donation is 50 cents to a dollar for each, and more if there are 7 day candles. When I light a 7 day candle I always leave at least 5 dollars. Sometimes there is a suggested donation, but most churches just leave it to people’s discretion. I’ve seen children light a candle and leave a dime. Bless their hearts.

God bless.

What are these and how are they used?

They are called vigil lights or votive lights, and they are an outward sign of your inner faith in the power of prayer, as well as a reminder that prayers continue to be offered up even after we walk out of the church building. The lit candle is also a reminder that Christ is the Light of the World, and the rising smoke is a symbol of prayer.

Generally, you light the candle and say a prayer for your intention (in either order). You may choose to leave a donation to help offset the cost of replacing the candle, but it is not required.

“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.” (acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2006/03/why-do-catholics-light-prayer-candles.html)

*Also, I see a donation box. Is it okay to simply add money to my tithing contribution to cover the costs of any candles I light instead of paying there (I’m always afraid that it might give the impression I am paying for the prayer, instead of for the candle I’ve used up). *
If your intent is to pay for the candle, then why not put the offering where it’s most likely to be used just for that purpose? A donation is not required, and it wouldn’t be wrong to put it in the regular offering, but I really don’t think you need to worry about how putting a donation in a donation box might “appear” to others.
Most Catholics who would be around before/after Mass long enough to see you light the candle and put money in the box probably already understand what the votive donation is about. Most people who are in the church are going to be focused on their own prayers, anyway, not on what that dollar you put in the donation box is about. If you’re worried you’ll give your children that impression, then simply explain it to them.

When can I light these and what are the reasons to do so?

**Anytime the church is open **(except when it would be disruptive or distracting for others–for instance, it’s probably not a good idea to light the ones right up front during Mass), and for any prayer intention. You don’t even have to be Catholic or a member of the parish to light a candle for a prayer intention. You (and others) may also choose to pray for the intentions represented by the other lit candles (I try to remember to do this when I arrive early at Mass).

*When I light one, do I leave it burning or do I blow it out? *
Most people leave them burning as a sign of their intent to continue praying, as well as a reminder that the saints continually pray for us, and so that others may pray for those intentions, as I mentioned. The candles will go out on their own when they burn all the way down. If you do choose to blow yours out, be very careful not to blow out any others.

*Any other etiquette rules that I should understand? * As mentioned, don’t blow out any lit candles that are not your own–remember to be careful of this when blowing out the match you used. If you do accidentally blow one out, re-light it. But you probably could have figured those out yourself. :wink: Other than that, I can’t think of anything… don’t play with the matches? :smiley:

Thank you for this thread. We visited several churches in Europe and I wondered about the purpose/etiquette of the candles.

I have been curious about how to light a candle and etiquette as well.
This has been so helpful. I also see there is a kneeler. Is it required to kneel , cross , pray ,cross or can one quietly pray standing and light the candle and move away. Or would that be considered rude, irreverent , bad form?
I’m so sorry , I’m not sure if
I am writing my question right. I’m new to the faith.

I would think if leaving money by the votives bothers you, you could put money in a separate envelope and drop it in the Sunday collection basket. I know our priest has told us either way is fine. Just be sure to keep an accurate count of the number of candles you lit and to include the correct amount the following Sunday. However, I think it would be best to pay up as soon as possible so you don’t forget and your parish doesn’t think votive money is going missing.

ChadS

It would not be rude or bad form. It would only be irreverent if your intent is irreverent, so generally not.

There is no particular requirement about the type of prayer offered or what “form” it may take. Sometimes, there is a kneeler available, sometimes there is not. You are not required to kneel while praying for an intention, even if a kneeler is available. It is there as a help.

Sometimes there is a particular prayer displayed near the statue or candles, as well, but it is not required to pray that particular prayer, either. It is also there as a help.

And don’t worry; it’s a good thing to keep asking questions to help you grow in knowledge of the faith. :thumbsup:

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