One of the things most associated with worship and prayer are candles and light. This is true for the Catholic church for sure! Candles and other lighted elements are inherent to liturgy and also accompany other church ceremonies and prayers. Here are some common places you will see candles or lights in the Catholic church:

    1. Churches often have one lamp continually burning before the tabernacle. This church candle is not only for ornamentation, but church instruction also states that it indicates and honors the continual presence of Christ.


    1. The Paschal candle is carried into a darkened church on the Saturday before Easter. This ceremony symbolizes the light of the risen Christ. It is a breathtaking and humbling experience.


    1. Unity candles are special church candles are present at Catholic weddings. Often, a parent of the bride and groom will light two small candles. After vows, the bride and groom will take those two small candles and, together, light the larger unity candle. This demonstrates their life is now one and they blow out the smaller candles representing their past separateness.


    1. Sacramental candles: Marriage is a sacrament that can be marked with a unity candle, but candles are also present at other sacraments, such as Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.


    1. Prayer candles: These are some of the most simple church candles, often small votives. It is common for Catholics to light a prayer candle during or after saying a prayer. Vigil candles are a type of prayer candle that are lit during prayers of waiting. It is most common to light one for another person, especially those who may be sick or suffering. Prayer and vigil candles are usually in a shrine or vestibule of the church and parishioners are welcome to use.


  1. Advent candles are probably the most well known Catholic church candles and are used in other Christian denominations as well. Pink, purple and white candles are lit during the Advent season (immediately preceding Christmas). Each candle represents a week of waiting for the birth of Jesus on Christmas.

Candles have a very “centering” and calming effect on people. They have come to represent reflection and contemplation. Therefore, you often see candles in homes and other places as well (and some of the above candles can most certainly be used outside the church). But Catholic church candles are truly special in symbolism and sacredness.