Travel: Lighting My Candle

I try to be reflective about the deep meaning of a lot of things I do, but not about lighting candles at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I don’t know why that remnant of Catholicism has stuck with me, but it has and I find it properly mysterious. Actually, candle lighting is pretty much a remnant in the Church as a whole. Most churches no longer have stands of candles to be lit — fire safety I suppose. Some have little white lights like you put on a Christmas tree that you can turn on one by one, but it’s not nearly the same.

I started up Fifth Avenue at 42nd St., and soon hit St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th. I’m choosy about my candle lighting. I pick St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Foundress of the Sisters of Charity, the nuns who staffed the college from which I graduated. There are a few other notable women who have alcoves, mostly variations on the Virgin Mary like the Virgin of Guadalupe, but Betty Ann Seton is my girl. She didn’t have any other candles lit in front of her statue, but then she’s fairly recently a saint and many of the people who still bother to light candles are probably the old tried and true who like better known Church symbols — the sacred heart of Jesus, for example.

There was a Mass going on, with two celebrants and a small handful of faithful participating up in front. Tourists milled around anyway, most attempting to be respectful by not crossing right in front of the altar. I wasn’t much interested in the Mass. I just wanted to find Betty and light my candle, then I moved on.

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