Friday, 12 February 2010
Closed for candles.
It was just before 10 o’clock in the morning, early Mass had long been over and everyone had left. The church was empty, or so Father Ignatius thought. He came out of the Sacristy to spend a few minutes with the Virgin Mary, sitting on the front pew reciting his Rosary as usual, when he noticed a young man sitting in his place. He was wearing a very smart dark suit and had a small business case with him lying beside him on the pew.
Father Ignatius nodded a greeting and sat on the other side of the church, by St Joseph’s statue, for a change. He thought it prudent to give the young man some privacy to pray or meditate. He’d never seen him before, “not one of our regulars,” thought the priest as he started his prayers.
A few minutes later the young man got up and made his way towards the priest.
“Do you work here?” he asked hesitantly.
“Yes … I am the priest here, they call me Ignatius. At least to my face, that is …” joked the priest standing up.
“I saw a book at the back about Catholic Saints. May I purchase it please?”
“Oh, you’re welcome to it … it’s free. Please help yourself to any leaflets or pamphlets on the table at the back,” replied Father Ignatius.
“I am not from this side of town …” continued the young man, “I’m here for a job interview at the factory down the road. I was surprised to find the church open at this hour. Where I live they are always closed.”
“It’s the devil’s finest hour when we lock our churches,” replied Father Ignatius, “we try to leave the door open as much as we can around here …”
“It’s a shame that so many churches are closed during the middle of the day … I like to go from time to time and just sit there … it helps me to think … and pray perhaps … you know, before my interview. I really need this job.”
“I wish you well … and I shall pray for you too …”
“All these statues of Jesus and the Saints have candles lit besides them. I’m not Catholic and I never understood the purpose of candles … do you believe they help get your intentions attended to … you know, if I lit a candle for this job I need?” asked the young man hesitantly.
The priest sat down and so did the young man. “Ah … I’ve been asked this so many times … the statues are of course inanimate objects just to help us envisage what Jesus or the Saints looked like. Just like having a photo of a loved one in your wallet. A helpful reminder every time you look at it …
“Some people consider it wrong to pray or light candles to statues. I understand that sentiment. But it’s important to understand also that we’re of course praying to Jesus or a Saint and certainly not to the statue we see there.
“It’s also important to understand that Jesus or the Saints do not require anything material from us … they don’t need candles lit … flowers put in vases or any such things …
“Lighting a candle is for many people a sign of love and respect. Their way of veneration … an expression of their Faith.
“So the answer is no … a candle will not help get you a job at the factory or anything else for that matter.
“I’ve lit many a candle in my time … I don’t see any harm in it, as long as it is understood that it will not buy you any favors in any way.
“God does answer prayers, I’ve seen it often … but He does so according to His will and not based on candles, flowers or such like …”
“Thank you …” said the young man, “I’ll light one all the same … but no promise or guarantee intended …” he smiled.
“Should you get the job around here … I hope to see you visit us from time to time …” said Father Ignatius as he shook the young man’s hand.
It seems that this time God was willing, and the young man did get his job, because Father Ignatius saw him sitting at the back of the church at midday Mass on several occasions since.