May 25, 2008

When prayer begins to melt

The churches we've visited this week (and I've lost track of how many we've gone into) have been amazing works of architecture, filled with art done by famous sculptors and painters. We've walked on stone floors worn from centuries of use, we've seen the tombs of famous people, and we went up a belltower for a fantastic view. Outside one church, Urban Sophisticate took off her shoes and I boosted her up to a spot where my brother had hidden a coin. (Yes, that coin was still there.) As we'd walk through quiet cloisters or admire works of art, my father or mother or sister would chime in with interesting facts they'd read somewhere. "Did you know that this whole church is resting on wooden pilings?" or "Did you see that tomb? Dead Painter Who Liked Redheads is buried there."

But my favourite thing to do in a church is, simply, to light candles. While the rest of my family would disappear to stare at the magnificent paintings, I'd go over quietly to the racks of candles, usually propped up near a statue or altar, and put a coin in the metal offering box. I lit candles for a friend whose wife had surgery this week, for a friend who is having scary health problems, for a young friend who is dealing with issues from his childhood, for a friend who is untangling complicated relationship issues, for a friend who is getting a divorce, for a friend who is having a difficult summer. From across the ocean, I knelt in these centuries-old stone churches, said prayers for people I care about, and watched flames flicker above dripping wax.

When prayer begins to melt

13 comments:

BlackenedBoy said...

Jo(e), this is beautiful in so many ways. Really.

Sandie said...

This is exactly what I would want to do there. Powerful words and image.

chip said...

wow, lots of very cool photos. Glad you all are having a great time!

kathy a. said...

jo(e) -- you probably know i am not religious. but lighting candles for friends in need brings tears to my eyes. i wish the best for all your friends whose candles you lit.

Cathy said...

And your prayers were felt all over the world - praying through the light.

Blessings upon you and your family as you all travel.

Teacher Girl said...

Jo(e),
This is such a beautiful post. Thank you! I myself am a non-religious lighter of candles and I find it to be a soothing practice that makes complete and utter sense in the context of my travels. I remember lighting candles for my parents and the parents of my boyfriend at Venice's Santa Maria della Salute. We live in Europe and they are all in Canada. It felt like exactly the right thing to do.

Cloudscome said...

Utterly sweet. I know those lights made a difference too.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Lovely

Silver Creek Mom said...

Amen. I'm seeing this country for the first time. Through your photos.
Beautifl photos
Beautiful thoughts

AF said...

It's the good thoughts behind the lighting of the candles that makes the difference. Thanks.

concretegodmother said...

oh, man! that's beautiful, powerful, soothing.

Scrivener said...

I did not light any candles in the churches when I was in Italy. I had never lighted a candle for someone else or for a particularly significant occasion before, in fact, excepting maybe for a birthday cake now and then, until I joined the Unitarian church and started taking part in the candles of community ritual there. It's really profound, isn't it?

Michelle said...

I love the photo, and the reflection. I just wrote a column for the diocesan paper about lighting candles, the prayers must be mingling somewhere above...