Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

John 8:12

Jesus is the Light of the World. Whenever we see a candle we are reminded of the holy presence of God. In the Catholic Church, candles hold a lot of symbolism. It is customary that we light candles before a statue or sacred image of our Lord or a saint.


The light signifies our prayer offered in faith and with hope. It also shows reverence and our desire to remain present in prayer even as we continue on our day. The smoke of the burning candle represents our prayers going upward to heaven.

Even the use of wax has its symbolic meaning. The Fathers of the Church always tried  to seek out the mystical significance of Christian practices, and one of them explains the reason for the Church’s law requiring candles to be of wax:

“The wax, being spotless, represents Christ’s most spotless Body; the wick enclosed in it is an image of His Soul, while the glowing flame typifies the Divine Nature united with the human in one Divine Person.”

“Votive” comes from the Latin, “votum” or Vow. It signifies that the lighting is done in fulfillment of a vow.  However, it is not the reason for using votive candles today.

Votive Candles at Church

Votive Candles are common in Catholic Churches, you can light it up a candle in exchange for a small donation as an offering for the favor you would like to receive from the intercession of a particular saint or The Lord. Churches have several statues around the building with rows of candle holders for the faithful to say their prayers. Donations are how the church covers the cost of the candles and keeps replenishing them.

Candles can be lit up also in thanksgiving for the favor received.

Votive Candles at home

Votive candles are used at home for personal altars. Many Catholic households assign a room or a corner for prayer in their house. This prayer room or corner may have the images or statues of their favorite saints. Among those you will find, Our Blessed Mother, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Joseph, The Holy Family, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina, and or their patron saint. Votive candles might be placed around the table to create an ambiance of prayer and reverence before the Lord.

The Saints have the grace to intercede for us before the Lord.

I light up a candle while I work. I say a little prayer, and it helps me focus as I do my job. I call upon the Lord and pray that He accompanies me as I go about my day. The atmosphere changes when I visually can remind myself that the Lord is present.

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