Tag Archives: sacrament

The Unity Candle

July 10, 2018


The Unity Candle The Unity Candle is a three-candle display, all white in color, one larger pillar candle in the center, flanked by two smaller taper candles, one on each side. Ordinarily they are placed on a Unity Candle stand or a table draped with a cloth. The display is never placed on the altar. The placement may be somewhere in the sanctuary that does not obstruct the view of the altar, pulpit, presider’s chair, or the couple, or may be placed outside but near the sanctuary.

The ceremonial lighting of the Unity Candle is not a part of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony in the Catholic Church. It is not allowed in some dioceses and parishes because it is not included in the ritual, or because those present for the exchange of vows witness the complete Sacrament of Marriage, the sacrament is powerful and stands fully on its own, a symbol is anticlimactic following the real thing, and a symbol does not supplement or augment it.

In many dioceses and parishes, the Unity Candle ceremony is permitted. It is a relatively new tradition that has much sentimental value. It provides the couple an opportunity to act together immediately. The ceremony is elegant, beautiful, and a memorable moment.

When the Unity Candle ceremony is celebrated, it comes after the blessing and giving of rings and before the Universal Prayer or the Prayers of the Faithful. The taper candles usually are lit before the liturgy, often by the mothers, but also possibly by relatives or friends, or if no one is designated, by the sacristan, or the taper candles are lit as the first part of the ceremony itself. Then the bride and groom each take a lit taper candle, and together simultaneously light the pillar candle. The taper candles are returned to their holders and usually left burning. The larger center candle is a symbol that is interpreted in a number of different ways.

The Married Couple. The usual understanding is that one taper candle represents the bride, the other represents the groom, and that the pillar candle represents the bride and groom joined together as a married couple. While each retains their individuality, represented by the taper candles that continue to burn, “they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:8).

Jesus. The lighted pillar candle represents Jesus who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). When the bride and groom light the pillar candle, they declare that Jesus is the center of their marriage, that they are joined together by him, that the sacramental grace that he supplies will sustain them and hold them together, and that they will individually and jointly follow his light.

The Sacrament of Marriage. The taper candles represent the baptismal candles of the bride and groom, as well as their faith in Jesus and their commitments to live their lives as his disciples. Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation. Then after the reception of Eucharist and Confirmation and the completion of the Sacraments of Initiation, the bride and groom indicate as they light the pillar candle that they intend to live out their baptismal faith as adults in the Sacrament of Marriage, their Sacrament of Commitment.

A New Family. The taper candles represent the immediate families of the bride and groom, their parents and siblings, and from their two families of origin, the pillar candle represents the new family that has begun with their marriage.

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The 7 best Confirmation gifts

April 17, 2012


Photo/ideacreamanuelaPps. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit have been coming up in conversations with my goddaughter, whom I’m sponsoring for Confirmation this spring. She has her eye on a particular gift, even though she’ll receive all seven when she’s confirmed later this month.

As the Holy Spirit bestows the seven gifts on my goddaughter in Confirmation, He will increase and complete her baptismal graces. (I remember her baptism well. I’m excited to see everything come together as she receives the last of her sacraments of initiation!)

Whether you’re involved with Confirmation right now, were confirmed at the Easter Vigil this year (congratulations!), received the sacrament a while ago or you’re just interested in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in this sacrament, here is quick explanation of the gifts and a description of each one.

We know about the seven gifts because in scripture Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would have them when the Spirit rested upon Him. (Is. 11:2-3) The first verse lists wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and a fear of the Lord. The Church recognizes seven gifts because while the Hebrew text mentions the fear of the Lord twice, Greek and Latin versions instead list “piety.”

Following the Spirit’s promptings

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are habits that perfect us so we’re able to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote. They are supernatural gifts that are present to us as long as we’re in a state of sanctifying grace. They complete and perfect the virtues (faith, hope, love, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) of those who receive them and make us docile and ready to obey the Lord’s inspirations. (CCC1831)  The gifts are meant to help us share in God’s life and nature—on earth and for eternity.

The gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding and counsel belong to reason, while fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord belong to appetite, according to St. Thomas.

  1. Wisdom: The ability to find God in all things—in nature, events in the world and generally the ups and downs of life. It keeps us from judging by appearances alone and makes us more mature in how we think and act.
  2. Knowledge: This gift offers understanding of God and the universe. More than a collection of facts, it helps us know who we are and the true value of things through life events.
  3. Understanding: This gift helps us know how to live as Christians. It also gives insight into the truths of the faith so we aren’t confused by the conflicting cultural messages on how to live. It is perfected through prayer and reading scripture.
  4. Counsel (Right Judgment): The knowledge to discern between right and wrong—and the ability to choose what is right and avoid sin. This gift also helps us seek direction in the Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation while being open to the advice of others.
  5. Fortitude (Courage): The ability to overcome fear and stand up for what is right according to God’s law even in the face of rejection, verbal abuse or physical harm. It gives the firmness of mind needed to do good and endure suffering. And it provides the strength to live a good Christian life even when no one seems to notice.
  6. Piety (Reverence): A deep sense of love and respect for God and the Church. Reverence leads to prayer because in realizing our total reliance on God we come before Him with humility, trust and love. At the Holy Spirit’s instigation, through piety we pay worship and duty to God as our Father, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote.
  7. Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe): A gift that helps us recognize God’s majesty and glory, and His great love for us. It helps us avoid anything that would separate us from His love.

As I go through this list, I’m wondering whether I’ve fully unwrapped all these gifts since my own Confirmation. It’s not a bad idea to ask the Holy Spirit to inflame them in our soul.  In his article on the Catholic Education Resource Center’s site, Fr. William Saunders quotes Bl. John Paul II on the power of the gifts: “With gifts and qualities such as these, we are equal to any task and capable of overcoming any difficulties.”

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Waiting in line for confession? What to do and not do

March 26, 2012


In line for confession at the Vatican or anywhere else, make the most of the wait time. Photo/rufty Licensed under Creative Commons

I plan on going to confession before Easter and I know I’m not alone. No matter how often Catholics receive the sacrament, many find this is an especially good time to seek forgiveness and healing in preparation for Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

I don’t know if there will be a long line at my church when I go but I’m guessing I’ll  have to wait. I don’t like it but it’s a great way to work on patience–a virtue that comes up often when I’m in the confessional.

If you’re like me and you sometimes do your formal preparation for confession during the car ride to church, waiting in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation offers the chance to slow down and really think about what I’m doing.

If you get to church and find a long confession line, maybe the first thing to ask is, do I really need to go right now? If you’re confessing venial rather than mortal sins, confessing them is a good idea but when many others in line may have more serious sins to confess, you can seek forgiveness during Mass, as Father Zuhlsdorf suggests in his blog.

Ways to prepare for confession while waiting

  • Pray: Ask God to help you make a good confession. Pray the rosary for His guidance. One friend prays that he can be honest and confess all the Lord wants him to, and also that he’ll be receptive to what God wants to reveal to him through the priest. Here are some pre-confession prayers.
  • Prepare: This site offers a good guide for making a confession and Catholics Come Home offers a number of resources.
  • Examine: If you’re not sure everything came to mind during your car examination, make a more thorough examination of conscience now. Check one of these sites while you’re waiting:
    Here’s one that offers both preparation for the sacrament and an examination of conscience.
    This one might be hard to read on a phone but I think it’s good.
    Father John Hardon offers an in-depth examination of conscience.
    This examination is also thorough.
  •  Reflect on your sins and seeking forgiveness. Read the bible. Some churches offer guides with prayers or reflections near the confessional. Orthodox priest Father Ted Bobosh offers a beautiful meditation on confession and the wisdom writings in the book of Sirach on his blog.

A  few things not to do in line

  • Talk:  This is not the time to get to know fellow parishioners. You disturb others who are praying and concentrating on receiving the sacrament.
  • Text, Surf or play games on your phone: Using your phone or iPad to pray or do an examination of conscience will help prepare you for the sacrament but texting or using other apps won’t. Try turning it off if you’re not using it for preparation.
  • Sing or pray out loud:  Find another place in the church for this if it helps you prepare.

The idea of going to confession makes some people anxious enough without adding a long wait in line. If we can see this wait time as a gift rather than an early penance we can go into the confessional the same way we leave it–with peace.

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Confession – Penance – Reconciliation: Call it what you will, it’s not that hard to go back

February 21, 2012


An examination of conscience made easy

You don’t rob banks. You haven’t killed anyone. You go to Mass weekly.

This Lent, try going to confession anyway. Or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Or Penance if you’re an old fogy like me. No matter what you call it, you’ll be glad you got up the courage.

Let’s even make it easy — here’s a quick list of questions to ask ourselves — you remember, an “examination of conscience.” These are some good things to talk to the priest about. Think of them as places in your life’s journey you want to improve, and your conversation with the priest is inviting him to help you do that.

  • Have I made time for my relationship with God — for Mass and prayer?
  • Have I failed to forgive?
  • Have I shown others anger way out of proportion?
  • Have I been a gossip, spread rumors, been critical of others without really having all the facts?
  • Have I been jealous or envious of other people?
  • Have I been a bad influence on others, even an enabler of other’s sins or addictions?
  • Have I failed to use the talents God’s given me because I’ve been lazy?
  • Have I made excuses for my own addictions or over-indulgences?
  • Have I given in to temptations that I know are sinful?
  • Have I missed chances to use my gifts and talents to help others?
  • Have I failed to see Jesus in the eyes of others?

The grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will do you good, and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, even if the total of your sins don’t add up to much.

And need a daily tug on your sleeve? Click here to sign up to get one e-mailed every day during Lent.


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Advice for a healthy marriage

July 19, 2011


If you know a man and a woman who just married or who plan to soon, pass along this advice from Mary T. Carty from her book “PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test.” It’s the kind of thing every married couple — new, or even not so new — might tape to the bathroom mirror to read every day.

  • No two people are exactly alike.
  • No two people think exactly alike.
  • You cannot read your partner’s mind.
  • Your partner cannot read your mind.
  • We are human and make mistakes.
  • It is impossible to change other people.
  • It is possible to change your actions and attitudes.
  • Treat the other person the same way you would like to be treated.
  • People have different opinions, likes, dislikes, and beliefs.
  • It is a human quality to have and show emotions.
  • It is a human quality for your partner to have and to show emotions.
  • It takes courage to accept differences.
  • It takes courage to forgive.
  • Patience is a virtue.
  • No one is perfect.
  • Love conquers fear.
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