One of my favorite things to do in Elmhurst’s Immaculate Conception church when I was a preteener, was lighting a vigil light, which were stacked up like tiny stadium seats to the right of the altar, under the Joseph-holding-baby-Jesus statue.
It wasn’t as powerful as incense, but the smell of burning wax was soft and mysterious and comforting. Since most of what we did in church was groupie, this was one of the solo activities allowed. I could choose to light a candle.
I tried to think up troubles sometimes to warrant the act. In fact, sometimes I made up troubles, which were not mine but I figured belonged to somebody who would appreciate a candle lit. I thought of warriors facing battle because I knew a few soldiers, although all of them were stateside. I thought of pestilence. I didn’t know what that was but it sounded bad. I thought of orphans but am ashamed to say living without parents didn’t sound all that terrible.
Lighting a candle had two best parts. First, the flame. In our house, flame was confined to birthday cakes and the rare leaf burning managed by Dad and Dad alone. The second best part was hope. Something about lighting a candle lit hope. Inside me.