On Thursday mornings I have 45 minutes to spare between Mass and the beginning of my work day, so I volunteer to help clean the church and I have been greatly enjoying taking part in this small, hidden way to serve the Lord and my parish. My chores have included cleaning the windows of the doors, polishing the holy water fonts, and dusting the sacristy. Recently, I've been asked to polish the brass candle covers that a parishioner had lovingly made for the large red votive candles some 30 years ago.
When Mass is over, a few people remain on their knees, silently praying in the darkened church. I allow myself a few minutes on my knees to offer my own prayer of thanksgiving before I enter the sacristy and find the rags and polish in the cupboard. I remove several candle covers from the large votives and take a seat at the long sacristy table in view of the crucifix and the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As I work the polish into the metal, removing the soot and restoring the brass to a high sheen, I think of all of the prayers that the soot represents. The black grime that I wipe away came from wisps of smoke rising to the Lord and the belief that He will hold on to those prayers, warm them with His love and kindly answer them in the most favorable of ways. I consider my work to be a prayer united with the prayers of the many people who have deposited their donation into the tin box, removed the bamboo stick from the sand, gently igniting it with the flame of an already-lit candle, and then placing the flame intentionally upon an unlit wick, whispering a word or two of prayer for a loved one, trusting that the flame will carry their prayer to heaven and the Heart of God.
With ten minutes of polishing, the gritty reminders of the old prayers are wiped away, and I return the now-shiny cover to the candle where it awaits the soot from future prayers of flame. Then, I light my own prayer candle of intentions, a nosegay of prayer filled with words of love and gratitude, to my crucified Lord and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on behalf of the people I hold closest to my heart, before departing for work.
Prayer to Say When Lighting a Candle
Accept, dear Lord, this votive vigil light, to burn before Thy shrine,
it's gentle rays to offer Thee, this lowly heart of mine.
While my poor soul, weighed down with care, will often fondly turn,
to Thy dear shrine, where through the hours, this vigil light shall burn.
This light my prayer shall keep alive, though I am far away,
amid the world's distracting scenes, my place it takes to pray.
Thus through the toilsome day of life, this silent sentinel,
it's vigil long and loving keeps, my love for Thee to tell. Amen.