Dear Father, We have, on occasion, attended Mass at a Novus Ordo parish when we cannot get to the distant Latin Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our area. We were shocked to see young girl altar servers carrying battery operated candles in procession and placing them on the altar for Mass (no other candles at all). Further we were shocked at a friend’s funeral to see adult altar servers carrying same battery operated candles in procession and placed on the altar for Mass (no other candles). Is this licit? Even if it is, it seems beyond tacky.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal speaks only of “candles” in the celebration of Holy Mass. It does not define what a candle is. It’s sad that we have come so far that the definition of something so simple would be required. Then again, in our society, where all definitions seem to be up for grabs, perhaps defining “candle” is the least of our worries.
A couple years back, the U.S. Bishops Office on Sacred Worship issued a statement on the matter. The statement comes from the bureaucratic officers who staff the USCCB, not from the bishops themselves. Therefore, it has no legislative authority. However, it is a clarification. It relies on clear legislative precedents as well as simple, common logic. HERE
According to this statement, only wax candles are permissible.
Imitation candles should not be used, either at Mass, or in devotional settings.
That said, there is pressure from local governments and insurance companies about the possibility of fire damage from candles. This, despite the fact that churches have been using candles for centuries with less incidence of fire than that caused by faulty electric wiring. I’m just sayin’.
I sympathize with pastors who are been pushed by the local apparatchiks or by their insurance providers to switch to electric “candles”. I urge them, insofar as possible, to resist the temptation.
A candle is a candle.
Candles are beautiful symbols of our sacrifices. They are like living things. They eat and drink the wax from the bees, made collectively in association with sweetness. They breath air. They move in their flames as they flicker. They communicate to our eyes a beautiful light and give contrast to their surroundings by illumination. They burn out at the end of their span. So do we. They are consumed for the Lord in the liturgy. So should we be. We do all these things. And so, using candles in important times is a very wholesome and Catholic practice. Leaving one of these little candles in a Church, as a symbolic sacrifice of your prayers and petitions is entirely natural.
When considering the electric option, Fathers, consider the symbolism of the flame gradually consuming the candle, transforming it into heat and light, just as our faith in Christ Jesus gradually consumes our body and soul, transforming us, through death, into Sons and Daughters of the Living God.
Does throwing switch do if for you?