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How the Simple Act of Lighting a Candle Can Create Meaningful Purpose in Everyday Life 

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” – William Shakespeare

We light candles to momentarily suspend time; to become present in the miraculous moments. Candle lighting can be so much more than just a pretty glow or lovely scent. Setting intentions on the flame of a candle is an ancient practice that crosses all social, economic and spiritual boundaries.

Used for thousands of years by every world religion as a delivery system for sending prayers and blessings towards the heavens. The flame acts as a messenger of light.

To help strengthen awareness, mindfulness, we light a candle. To calm our nervous system, we light a candle. Most of us light candles on our birthday cake with a secret wish, while blowing them out, to the cheers of our loved ones. We light candles in remembrance of those who have past. Unity candles are lit for couples joining together in marriage. The power of candle lighting lives in our DNA. This ancient practice has only grown in importance as technology and our world has become increasingly distracting and complex. Candles remind us, as Anne Lamott asserts, “grace bats last.” With the bases loaded the strongest hitter steps up, and like the strength of a candle’s flame, having survived since humans discovered fire, brings the players home.

“Worldwide Candle Lighting Day” is celebrated annually on the second Sunday in December.

This day was created by The Compassionate Friends organization in 1997, as a way for families and friends to honor the memories of children who have left this world too soon.  What was once a small internet tribute, has grown into a worldwide wave of light as candles are lit in every time zone.

“We are not here to curse the darkness but to light the candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future” – John F. Kennedy

There are countless reasons to light a candle, and various ways to ignite the wick. I prefer striking a match. Something about the scratchy strip of roughness against the round tip of the match is so satisfying as it suddenly bursts into flame. In that moment the flame meeting cotton wick becomes everything. As the flickering fire catches the wick I rejoice in the glow and for a moment the match and wick join forces and the flame reaches its highest potential only to settle down to a soft dancing amber as the match is pulled away.

My favorite candle lighting experience was holding my toddler son, while lighting a candle together, with the prayer that my grandmother would be free from pain, in the sanctuary of Notre Dame in Paris. (I have a photo of this moment)

I invite you to light more candles, make more wishes and share the light!

My motto is: “Never leave a burning candle, or suffering friend, unattended.”

Ianthe Mauro is the creator of Objects With Purpose.


This essay was featured in the Dec. 16h edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.




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