Keep Your Light Burning
By Geriann Wentworth
“Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God
And render him your
Call on me in the day of
I will free you and you
shall honor me.”
Ps 50:14, 15
As I read these verses, images of flickering red votive
candles flashed in my mind. When I was a little girl,
I spent two weeks at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn
almost every summer. We would attend daily Mass at St.
Jerome’s a few blocks down the street. After Mass, my
grandmother would hand me some quarters so I could light
votive candles. This was one of my favorite things to do
and I knew it was important. On Tuesdays, she took me
to St. Francis in the city for Mass and confession. The
Friars walking around in their long robes and sandals, even
in the winter, intrigued me!
In the basement there were
several alcoves each containing a statue of a particular
saint. Each alcove also had its own set of votives. My
favorite alcove held a wax- likeness of the incorrupt body
of St. Bernadette of Lourdes enclosed in a glass case.
Since she was my favorite, I always saved her for last so I
could pray there longer. I would curiously watch others
fervently asking the intercession of their favorite saint.
Sometimes an elderly person, usually a woman, would make a
reverent gesture such as lovingly touching the feet of the
saint or kissing the hands as if the saint was a close
friend. I remember wanting to love like that.
We also visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. My favorite alcove
there held a statue of the Infant of Prague. Many people
prayed at that alcove and I remember thinking he must be
The most memorable shrine we visited was St. Joseph’s
Oratory in Montreal. We visited my Aunt, a nun assigned to
Halifax. She and some of the other sisters took us to see
the Oratory. There were many steps up to the front
entrance. I can close my eyes and remember the moment
I entered: the long marble corridor, echoes of footsteps
and hushed voices, flickering candle light and the smell of
burning wax, the enormous walls and sky-high ceiling. As we
quietly walked along the corridor, the nun beside me tapped
me on the shoulder and pointed to the wall. Upon further
inspection, I realized that what I initially thought was
the wall was something much more. I observed old crutches
of various sizes, worn leather and metal back braces, leg
braces, neck braces, all sorts of orthopedic shoes, baby
shoes with braces, canes of all sizes, leg casts, upper
body casts, and walkers lining the walls from top to
bottom. The nun explained that people who had been
miraculously healed through the prayers of Brother Andre
(now Saint Andre) left these things here with notes of
praise and thanksgiving to God: so very many sacrifices of
thanksgiving! I had never seen anything like this nor have
I since then. I will never forget this truly awe-inspiring
What if we made our lives “votive
offerings” to God?
What if we let our hearts sing
notes of praise and thanksgiving,
attached those notes to the
things that encumber us and surrendered them to God?
What if we let the votive of love
in our hearts continually burn bright for the One who has
When we call on Him in our distress, trust Him and
surrender in thanksgiving all that burdens us, He will free
us from all that hinders. Our hearts will become living
votive offerings flickering in honor of our God for all
that He has done for us. During this Lent, let us practice
the discipline of praise and thanksgiving so our light will
keep burning for the Lord who loved us unto death.
Keeps the light burning for those who live in darkness so
they can find their way home, too.