Why did I have to donate to light a candle for the Virgin Mary?


Today I went to Church and there was an alter for the Virgin Mary. There were candles under it that were electronic and made out of plastic and you pressed a button to light it. There was a little sign on it that said “$1 donation to light candle only one candle per donation” why do I have to “donate” $1 to light a candle to the BVM. Is this like simony? How is this okay? I do believe in the Church but I don’t understand how it is a donation if you have to pay $1 to light a candle. And it’s not like it covers the cost of the candle because it’s plastic.


Generally, if it says donation it is up to you if you pay it or not.

The donation helps with the cost of running the Church, which is getting more expensive all the time.

I’m sure that no one would have a problem if you are short on cash and light a candle without paying.


Are you sure there was an altar to her?


Donation and selling might be different things. In my parish, after mass there is a delicious coffee/snack that asks for a 50 cents donation in a wooden box. I am pretty sure if I had to pay for what I was eating it would be pretty expensive. And sometimes I don’t even have those 50 cents :blush:.


The candle, be it wax, oil (usually olive oil) or electric is an ancient custom of the Church known as a votive offering. Candles, flowers and other votive offerings are all symbolic of our both our ongoing prayers either to petition God either directly or through the intercession of our heavenly family, (our Lady and the Saints) or to give thanks for a petition answered. If you wanted to offer flowers at an altar dedicated to honor our Lady, they would cost more than a dollar, even if you grew them yourself the time and water, plant food etc would cost more than a dollar.

It is customary to also offer some sort of financial offering to the Church for the causes which she champions, feeding and clothing the poor, teaching the Faith, educating and housing those who cannot afford the basic comforts in life etc. There is also the upkeep of churches which are used to glorify God, and as a respite from the world is part of that work. While it is true that at some point the amount of money it cost to purchase the electric votives will be met, (sadly religious goods dealers charge far more for some items like candle stands and other liturgical items than one would expect) there will still be the cost of the electricity to run them or in some places new candles to replace the burned out ones. The small donation we make is both a mark of our devotion and as above supports the various activities of the Church which all need to be paid for.

Simony on the other hand is attempting to buy for a spiritual favor, we are not attempting to bribe our Lady, or God, or the clergy to get a petition answered when we light a candle. Remember the story of the Widow’s mite. If we have in abundance, we can and should offer a bit more than the dollar suggested, if we have nothing, the act of lighting a candle and petitioning or thanking God is just as valid.


They ask a donation to help the Church or maybe a certain mission, &c.,

It is perfectly fine if you are short on cash at the moment to light a candle or like I have done before if I only have large bills, I will light a candle and then when I come back another time make the donation. It is merely situational and God will understand if you can’t donate.

Donations are there just to help out the Church and to pay for the candle.

God bless!


It’s to pay for the candle


Hi Lenny,

I have done like the others and sometimes I will just light the candle without the donation if I don’t have the money at the time. When I can, I will then come back and pay for it the next time.

The donation helps to cover the expenses of running the church.


It varies among parishes.

Sometimes there’s a donation box nearby, with no suggested donation amount.

Sometimes there’s a suggested donation.

Sometimes you need to put the mandatory donation into the box before you can push a button on one of the “unlit” electronic candles. In other words, the button won’t work until it’s activated by the donation box. A nearby parish requires $3 to push the button.

One parish I occasionally attend has its votive candles in its adoration room, separate from the nave of the church. It has real candles, in the glass jars, in a huge shallow box of sand. I think the candles are anchored in molded metal racks, which are hidden in the sand. You light your candle from the flame of another candle, by using one of the lighting tapers. There is a donation box, but no suggested donation amount. Every time I’ve gone there, most of the candles are lit (in other words, plenty of people come into the adoration room).


What were you told when you asked someone at your church?


In my church, where real votive candles are used, the money goes to buy more candles.


Electric candles? What type of modernistic, unfaithful stuff is this? My Church, for one, has real votive candles and the only requested donation is 50 cents which is used to buy more real candles… two, why does your Church ask for one dollar donations while they are electric, and do not offer at all near the serenity, tradition, and faith surrounded in real candles?

Do they use electric candles for the GIRM Rubric? Of course not. (Well, they shouldn’t.)


Somebody has to buy the candles. Obama doesn’t donate towards the purchase. :stuck_out_tongue:


Unfortunately there are certain communities in which it is illegal to leave candles burning unattended. In them some churches have gone to electric. It is either that, or nothing.


Possibly because of insurance reasons.


Insurance is always trying to stop churches from using candles, but as of yet they don’t have the legal teeth to enforce it. Electric candles may never be used on the altar, but they are unfortunately making strong inroads as votive candles, especially in parts of Europe. In St. Peter’s Basilica and several other Roman parishes, they can be seen in side altars. Parishes in Ireland are filled with electric votive candles, from racks of hundreds of small ones to large red and blue “candles” mounted to side altars.


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