Skip over Navigation | Jump to Page Menu
Welcome
   
  Administrator's Letter

 

 

Candles Light Up Our Lives

 

Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS, the Shrine Administrator writes:

 

Time was when if someone asked you if you’d like strawberry or chocolate or vanilla or rum and raisin he or she was talking about ice cream. These days it's just as likely to be a ‘flavour’ of candle. While oil, then gas, then electricity once liberated us from the necessity of candle flame to light our way, if your average High Street or airport or large railway station is anything to go by, it seems the candle has made an impressive comeback.

One such shop can be found in St Pancras Station in London, its  name is ‘Rituals’ and its promise to purify my body and soul with the purchase of a candle (fig scented) was too intriguing to pass by. Rather cheekily and with a grin I asked the sales assistant just how a fig- scented candle would have such a dramatic effect on my soul and, as a great believer in them myself, what specific rituals could the shop suggest to go with it. Even my clerical attire did not help her sense the touch of irony in my voice as she looked anxiously for someone in higher management!

But I'm not going to argue with the idea that a few candles around the place doesn’t add an air of mystery, or create a bit of ambience! But if the aim of ‘Rituals’ and other such shops is to help you feel better about yourself, get in touch with your doctrine-free spiritual self, or create a bit of peace or even romance after a long day, for we Christians the candle promises so much more.

Week by week hundreds of pilgrims make their procession through the grounds of the Shrine, accompanied by anyone else who happens to be there, and of course with the image of Our Lady in their midst. Even in the height of summer when there is still plenty of ‘natural’ light to see by, we still light our candles and lift them up during the Ave’s. For we are those who have discovered that both in the darkness and the light of the created order, when we can naturally see or when we can’t, we need Christ, for whom the candle is but a sign, to accompany, guide us and light our way. Unaided, we stumble and are liable to fall. The Word made flesh is ‘a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path’.

To carry a candle, like so many ritual actions, is a fundamental acknowledgment of our need of the Lord without whom we would literally lose our way.

But, of course, at other times at the Shrine and in many churches a lit candle is a sign of our prayer, so often a secret prayer known only to the heart of the one who has set it alight and to the One who so reliably hears our murmurings, our aspirations, our concerns, and sometimes our desperation. To light a candle in this way is an expression of our vulnerability and woundedness, which serves to remind me of a surprising quote from the Canadian song writer and poet, Leonard Cohen, on the ‘Rituals’ website!

'There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

When talking about the ministry of the Shrine I have often referred to some musings by a teenage girl who spent time in the Holy House during a school visit:

What touched me most were the votive candles and their messages, rising hopefully with the smoke to heaven to be heard. As an atheist I felt that I could really understand this: the need to ask for help; to express a problem and hope that it makes it through. In the chapel it became easy to understand the appeal and necessity of prayer, of a divine power to guide and to be light. Then I lit a candle myself because in such a safe and happy place I could believe that someone, somewhere, could see it, however small both the candle and the sentiment were…’

At Candlemas millions of people will ritually light candles. They’ll be neither scented nor expensive, but they will be a wonderful expression of faith and a frail but tangible reminder of the abiding reality of the Divine Love who came to lighten the Gentiles and to be the Glory of Israel, the one light enough to light the whole world.


+Lindsay OGS

 


The Administrator's Assumptiontide 2014 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print


The Administrator's Candlemass 2014 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


The Administrator's Assumptiontide 2013 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


The Administrator's Advent 2012 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


The Administrator's Assumptiontide 2012 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


The Administrator's Eastertide 2012 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


The Administrator's Advent 2011 letter to all Priests Associate. Click here to read and/or print.


A Letter from the Master of the Guardians and the Administrator regarding the creation of the Ordinariate. Click here to read and/or print.



 
   

Top

 
  The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Walsingham, Norfolk NR22 6BP | Tel: 01328 820255 | Fax: 01328 824206