The Impact of Blessed Candles - a Deeper Life of Grace

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Blessed candles are a remarkable sacramental, regarded as one of the chief sacramentals in the life of the faithful. They are principally blessed at the Mass on the Feast of Candlemas, February 2nd, but may also be blessed, with a different ritual, by a priest at any other time as well. As with all sacramentals, the efficacy of the blessing is dependent on the faith of the one who uses them. To obtain their full effect, we must be in a state of grace and use these in a spirit of prayer and longing for God’s love and grace.

In this article, I will discuss:

- The wording of the blessings for candles
- Some of the theology involved in the blessings
- The uses and effects of blessed candles

The Great Feast of Candlemas

On the Feast of Candlemas, the ritual to bless candles, contained in the Missal for Holy Mass, involves imparting five separate blessings on the candles, which are then incensed and distributed to the faithful.

These blessings impart the grace that, through the piety and prayers of those who devoutly use them, God will be moved to hear us and respond in the manner stated.

This blessing states that these candles are “bless[ed] and sanctif[ied] for the use of men, and for the health of bodies and souls, whether upon the earth, or on the waters,” and that God would “hear from Thy holy heaven” the voices of those who bear these candles with honor.

The blessed candles are also “kindled with the light of heavenly benediction.” This light will not only banish the darkness of night but will also illumine our hearts with an invisible fire (the Holy Spirit) and “free [us] from the blindness of every sin.”

With the conscience thus purified, “we may be able to discern what is pleasing to Thee and conducive to our salvation.” The blessing affords to the candles a divine gift which empowers their external light to secure the “light of Thy Spirit…in our minds.”

On any other day, the priest may bless the candles according to another blessing in the Roman Ritual, Volume III, #82.

This blessing, while much shorter, is packed with powerful graces. The primary effect is that of driving away the diabolical which, among all the sacramentals, is one of the principal effects intended by their use. This important effect needs to be understood as not an isolated issue, but one which is bound up with the full theology of our pursuit of salvation.

This blessing says, “Empowered by the seal of Thy holy cross, let the spirits of darkness depart trembling and fly in fear from all places where their light shines, and never more disturb nor molest those who serve Thee.”

It is important to see these two blessings in the same light, particularly since the shorter blessing is the one intended to be used on all days outside of Candlemas. The longer and more eloquent Candlemas blessing is more powerful in the effects promised, but underlying those effects is the same principal of driving away the diabolic.

Before I describe this similarity further, let us consider the impact demons are able to have on us, on this earth, and why.

Sacramentals of Spiritual Warfare

Catholic theology, as particularly seen in the Sacraments and sacramental blessings, sees that demons are permitted to occupy all aspects of the natural world: the air, water, areas underground, dwelling places, the atmosphere, etc. I recount this in my book, Slaying Dragons, and also highlight there a story shared by Fr. Ripperger that demonstrates how demons can also occupy the air in the atmosphere and stir up violent storms. I have heard from many other priests, who both believe and have utilized sacramental blessings which have the stated intention, in the words officially authorized by the Church, to block the ability of demons to disrupt the elements of the world and, in particular, to stir up storms.

Fr. Lambing, in his work, “The Sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church, in 1892, says of sacramentals in general:

“It is no less seen in the confidence [the faithful] have in the use of certain sacramentals when threatened with danger from the elements; for, by the permission of God, the evil spirit has certain power over the atmosphere, and is, for that reason, called in Scripture the prince of the air. (Eph.1:2) The power to still the disturbances of the elements is also called down upon not a few of the sacramentals in the form of prayer by which they are blessed.” (Source)

The Candlemas blessing, with its emphasis on protecting the health of body and soul, whether on the land or on the sea, is a reflection of the same effect intended in the shorter blessing, which more explicitly commands demons to depart and cease to disturb us, wherever we may be. The reason is expressed all throughout Scripture and Tradition.

St. Paul, in the Letter to the Ephesians, reminds us that, when we were dead in sin, we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now works on the children of despair; in which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath.” (Eph. 1:1-3)

From this we learn that the demons, as St. Thomas also teaches in his commentary, have been consigned not to Hell but to the dark atmosphere of the earth, where they oppress mankind and seek to lure us into servitude. The Letter of St. Jude also notes this, stating that “the angels who did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling he has kept in everlasting chains under darkness until the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6)

Satan has a power over those who follow him through sin, and exerts this dominion because sin, as Our Lord teaches, makes us a slave to sin and death, of which Satan is the instigator from the beginning. He also has a general power to act, by God’s permission, in the lives of all men, as we see even in the life of Our Lord, who was first tempted by the devil, and then killed by men whom the devil encouraged and inspired. Demons also have the ability to disturb us through the elements of the earth, such as storms and the disturbance of the sea, and even of our bodies, provoking illness, as well as even greater ways if we permit them, through grave sin, to enter our lives.

The Power of the Blessing

Thus, when the shorter blessing focuses on scattering the demons far away from us so they may no longer be permitted to disturb nor molest us, these anti-diabolical effects will lead to the same results as what is promised by the Candlemas blessing. When the demons depart, the full light of the Holy Spirit will shine. When the intellect is cleared from diabolical intrusions, the powers of reason and conscience will necessarily be heightened. When the demons are driven away from our place on the land or the sea, the elements will calm and the tranquility that comes from trusting the Lord will fill our hearts. Therefore, while the Candlemas blessing is less explicit about the effect it will have on the demons, the benefits it brings are bound up in this same spiritual warfare logic.

The Uses and Effects of Blessed Candles

Blessed candles have been important in the life of the faithful for many centuries, dating back to the very early days of the Church. In both the blessing and in popular devotion, we see the power of this sacramental to aid us in our journey.

From the prayers, we know that blessed candles:
- Protect the body and soul whether on land or on sea
- Increase the efficacy of one’s prayers
- Illumine the heart with an invisible fire (the Holy Spirit)
- Purify the mind to discern God’s will
- Preserve the light of the Spirit in the mind

From traditional practice, we know that blessed candles:
- protect the faithful during storms and threats from the elements
- disperse demons
- protect the dying Christian by dispelling demons and granting a final light of faith

Fr. Barry, in his 1879 book, “Flowers from the Garden of the Liturgy,” summarizes the effects of blessed candles. What he says is repeated in other classic books, and by experienced priests and exorcists. He states:

“Pious Catholics light them during thunderstorms, that God, in consideration of Christ, whom they represent, may deign to protect His servants. Let us light them whenever we are threatened with calamity, and if we do so in a spirit of faith, we shall experience signal proofs of God's fatherly care of us. But above all, let the holy candle burn by the bedside of the sick and the dying, dispelling by its blessed light the shades of trouble and despair, which the Prince of darkness strives to cast around the Christian soul in the hour of its dissolution, and illumining the dark road, through the valley of death to the mountain whose light is God.” (Source

As we know from the writings of many Saints, the devil does not give up on seducing the soul until it has long departed the body in death. Thus, at that fateful moment, it is the Christian practice to fortify the dying with all the prayers, hymns, Sacraments, and sacramentals which the Church, in her great care and solicitude, obtains for us from our merciful Lord.

The blessed candle is placed in the hands of the dying so that the light of the blessed candle may also serve as a symbol of the invisible light which will lead the Christian into eternal happiness. It is a symbol also, as Gueranger says, “of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and of the protection of our Blessed Lady.”  (Source)

As many commentators have said, the candle itself is a powerful symbol of Christ and, in that, it has a special efficacy in drawing the soul closer to God. Looking at the candle is like looking at Christ Himself. The soft white wax is the pure flesh taken in the Incarnation, the wick is His sacred soul, and the flame is His divinity, which radiates out even through His humanity, which glows with His divine glory.

With this rich and ancient symbolism in mind, and with the natural power of candles and fire to warm man’s heart and bring him comfort, it is no wonder that this element of the earth has been adopted by Christ and entrusted to us as a sacred and effective remedy against the evils of this world.

Take up your blessed candles, Christian faithful, in a spirit of obedience to Christ, and allow Him to further bless you, inspire and encourage you, and defend you in your procession to our heavenly homeland.


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