ASK FATHER: More than one Paschal Candle at a Vigil for parish cluster

paschal_candle_01From a reader…


I am a parish priest in a cluster of three parishes. We are celebrating the Easter Vigil at the largest church. The smaller two churches (full parishes in their own rite)will have Mass on Easter Sunday. Do you know of any rite or accommodation for blessing the paschal candles and/or baptismal font and/or Easter Holy water at the smaller two parishes?

Whew.  Tough one.

I am sure this problem came up in the days when a priest might have more than one parish as a benefice, but in those days, too, there were a lot more priests.  I suppose they just did without or they set up another candle that had been blessed.

I don’t remember reading any official directive about what to do in this case, although it must be happening a lot these days, given the way parishes are being collapsed.  Hopefully, someone with experience can chime in with something official (if it exists).

That said, the rites foresee one candle.  I can’t see a way to prepare and bless multiple candles in the Easter Vigil.  That just doesn’t seem right.  The singularity of that candle at that moment shouldn’t be blurred.

However, I think it was – in the day – possible to have more than more candle in a church for Masses celebrated at side altars.  In that case the candles would have had to have been prepared separately, but not during the Easter Vigil itself, when only one candle would be prepared and blessed.

Ideal?  No, but clustering parishes isn’t ideal.  Not having enough priests isn’t ideal.

I would prepare three candles, but only bless one at the Vigil.  The other two I would simply set up for Easter in the other places.  So, that’s how I would handle it, salvo meliore iudicio. 

For the Easter Water, I would bless a LOT of it and take some to the other parishes.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. vandalia says:

    This was a situation that was probably fairly common about a century ago. Around 1900, a former Bishop in my diocese was once pastor of about a half-dozen rural parishes. He would use the train to visit one a week. I have no idea how they handled the Paschal candle, but it certainly would have been an issue they faced. (About 6 months ago, I visited a woman who remembered when she was a child the priest coming about once a month on the train to celebrate Mass.)

  2. APX says:

    Not sure if this is of any help, but the USCCB suggests [suggests] the following:

    In the case of mission churches and cluster parishes, can multiple paschal candles be used for the Service of Light?
    The Roman Missal, not envisioning the pastoral situation of mission churches or cluster parishes, specifies that only one paschal candle is used. To accommodate the particular circumstances, the Secretariat of Divine Worship might suggest that the candles from the mission churches or other parish churches could be present at the Easter Vigil, having been prepared in advance, and blessed alongside the main candle (perhaps having deacons or other representatives holding them). In keeping with the rubrics, for the lighting and procession only one candle should be lit (the principal one, or the one which will remain in that particular church). As the other candles in the congregation are lit, the other paschal candles could be lit and held(but not high, in order to maintain the prominence of the one principal candle) by someone at their place in the assembly. Once all the candles are extinguished after the singing of the Exsultet, the other paschal candles are put aside. On Easter Sunday morning, those candles could be taken to each of the missions and carried, lit, in the entrance procession at the first Mass at each church and put in place in the sanctuary.

    I once attended Easter Vigil at parish that was a cluster of other churches. There was only one Paschal candle. I’m not sure what the priest did for the other two churches.

  3. I dealt with this situation several years ago, when I pastored two parishes. At that time, I found guidance in an official document published some years ago, from Rome, that covers lots of things related to Lent, Holy Week and the Triduum:

    My solution — based on the referenced document — was just what you recommended. That is, regarding the candles. I don’t recall what it said about the baptismal water. What I recall doing is blessing water at the other parish on Easter Sunday; but whether I found that in the document, or spelled that out on my own? I dunno.

  4. Widukind says:

    When I had two parishes, we switched off on the Easter Vigil – one year in one place, the next year in the other. On Easter morning at the other parish, I recall having the Easter Candle carried in as part of the entrance procession and then incensing it. For the water, I blessed the water before the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, using the blessing from the Vigil and dipping it three time into the water, etc. I am not sure if this was kosher. Maybe it was bloody gray – rather than black or red!

Comments are closed.