When I arrived home today, I was once again reminded that it’s that time of year—time to load up on a 365-day supply of candles, not the lovely-smelling ones from White Barn, but the pure white ones that are blessed on Candlemas. We started burning holy candles 24/7 about eight years ago.
After too many years of keeping my prayer life somewhat on the back burner, eight years ago found me deciding to get serious—God’s grace at work. Adoration, confession, the rosary, and more intentional prayer times became much more the norm for me. I also spent some time studying the Catholic Catechism and the early Church Fathers. Along the way, I learned a great deal about sacramentals and why the Church has them. The Church offers an arsenal of defenses for times that are challenging. If you look at sacramentals as a way to fight against “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” you can think of them as weapons.
I have always known about holy water. The waters of baptism can remind us of our commitment to reject Satan and all of his works and empty promises. Making the sign of the cross with the holy water also proclaims our belief in the Trinity. Demons aren’t very pleased with the reminder that baptism washes away original sin, and the sign of the cross reminds them of the victory won for us there.
The Church also offers blessed salt. We are called to be the salt of the earth, and blessed salt is part of the exorcism rite in a traditional baptism. Salt also doesn’t evaporate like water. I carry holy salt in my purse and all my travel bags. I use it to bless the places where I truly want God’s presence. Hotel rooms, hospital rooms, subways when I travel all across the country—all have holy salt in the corners. I’m like a holy salt version of Hansel and Gretel!
In addition to the water and salt, there is holy oil. Anointing has been part of our Catholic tradition from the beginning. We are believers in the Anointed One, and we were marked for him with holy oil in our baptism. Isaiah 21:5 tells us to “anoint the shield,” and Mark 6:13 says, “They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” When we use holy oil to bless ourselves and our loved ones, we are putting up our defenses against attacks by drawing on the graces we received in our baptism.
We use so many candles now that we have them delivered by UPS. Christ is the light of the world. Churches burn holy candles before the Blessed Sacrament to signify that Christ is present. We, too, are called to be the light of Christ in the world, and his light should burn within us. Every day, we burn a holy candle in our home to show that Christ dwells here, and his light burns for eternity. Of course, sacramentals don’t stop there. We can use medals, scapulars, crucifixes, and rosaries as well. In her wisdom, the Church offers many ways for us to “fight the good fight.”