A Special Announcement

LaurelThis weekend we're making a special and important announcement for our parish. Our wonderful church secretary, Laurel Kutzenco, is retiring after 11 years in the position. "Position" is too antiseptic of a word. In this case it really means making sure all of the people and events in a busy parish are tended to appropriately – and especially that a pastor, pulled in many directions, keeps his focus. And so I'm grateful to Fr. Hyl for having hired Laurel. She is certainly the most competent of secretaries, but most especially I and we are grateful to Laurel for her love and commitment to the people, families, life and ministries of Holy Spirit Parish.

Some parishioners may not know Laurel by sight, perhaps only by email or phone (though she is a wonderful Lector and you will have seen her at Mass), but we have all been helped and blessed by her good work over the years. Her capable assistant for a little over a year, Carol Hurley, will try to fill her shoes.

One last thing: Laurel was the driving force behind our having votive candles in the church under the statue of the Blessed Mother. She was tireless in making sure that we all have that wonderful prayer resource available. In Laurel’s honor, the facing page tells us a bit about the candles and the practice of lighting them.

And so now please offer the Lord prayers of gratitude and future blessings upon Laurel and her husband, Phil, who has also recently retired. Although no longer in the rectory, Laurel will remain an active member of the parish, until she and Phil retire to their home in Asheville, North Carolina.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, 
and all your mind 
~Matthew 22:37 

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One addition to our sanctuary last year is the bank of votive candles at the Blessed Mother Statue. As we mentioned above, our secretary Laurel Kutzenco, was the driving force behind them. Some of us remember this Catholic tradition, while for others it may be a new practice. (The word “Votive” comes from the latin “votum”, meaning prayer or vow). It is hoped that we can pass on this practice to our children and grandchildren. This article is by Fr. William Saunders of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

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The History of Votive Candles

Growing up, I can always remember lighting votive candles and saying a special prayer in church. What is the background for votive candles?

First we must appreciate the use of lit candles in Judaism. A perpetual light was kept burning in the Temple and synagogues… to show the presence of God. The Talmud prescribed a lit lamp at the Ark, where the Torah and other writings of Scripture were kept, to show reverence to the Word of God. (This influenced our own tradition of having a candle near the Tabernacle to indicate the presence of and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.)

Roman pagan culture also used candles in religious practice for religious and military processions, showing the divine presence or favor of the gods. With the development of emperor worship, candles were also lit near his image. Remember that by the time of Jesus, the emperor was considered divine and even given the title, Dominus et Deus (Lord and God).

Christians adapted the use of lit candles (or even oil lamps in the East) for Mass, liturgical processions, evening prayer ceremonies, funeral processions, and to show reverence to the reserved Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, there is evidence that candles or oil lamps were burned at the tombs of saints, particularly martyrs, by the 200s, and before sacred images and relics by the 300s. St. Jerome (d. 420) in his Contra Vigilantium attested to this practice. Note, however, that this practice probably existed well before available written evidence.

In Catholic tradition, light signifies - Christ. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world"  (Jn 8:12), "I have come to the world as its light, to keep anyone who believes in me from remaining in the dark" (Jn 12:46). Moreover, St. John connects Christ’s true life with the image of light: "Whatever came to be in Him, found life, life for the light of men….The real light which gives light to every man." (Jn 1:4, 9). For this reason, at a Baptism, the priest or deacon presents a candle lit from the Easter Candle, symbolizing the Paschal mystery, and says to the newly baptized, "You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom". The light then is a symbol of faith, truth, wisdom, virtue, grace, the divine life, charity, the ardor of prayer and the sacred presence which flow from Christ Himself.

So today, as in early Christian times, we light a candle before a statue or sacred image of our Lord or of a saint. Of course, we do not honor the statue or image, but whom they represent. The light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or the saint to pray with us and for us. The light shows a special reverence and our desire to remain present to the Lord in prayer even when we depart and go about our daily business.

In all, the usage of votive candles is a pious practice in many Churches. The symbolism reminds us that prayer is a "coming into" the light of Christ, allowing our souls to be filled with His light, and letting that light burn in our souls even when we return to other activities.

 

Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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