My flame of faith

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Candles found in the holy grotto in Lourdes, France. Ali Danahy ’16

If you asked me what my favorite material object is, I would say a candle, because it has the ability to completely transform a room. Candles come in a variety of colors, scents, and sizes, each with a different purpose and affect.
Candles are such an important part of my daily life that when I first arrived in Lourdes, France for the Ampleforth pilgrimage this summer, the abundance of candles made me feel right at home. 
These candles, like the pilgrimage, are their own miracle. Each prayer is expressed and bound by the prayers and wishes in the candle before it. People go to Lourdes to be healed or to experience faith in its strongest form. The candles, however, are the most meaningful and unexpected form of prayer that I witnessed in Lourdes. 
On our first night as pilgrims, we attended the torchlight procession where thousands of people walked around the basilica with candles. The entire road to the basilica was illuminated for hours. I was amazed to see the strong faith of these people presented in such a lively and bright atmosphere.   

Candles found in the holy grotto in Lourdes, France. Ali Danahy '16
Candles found in the holy grotto in Lourdes, France.
Ali Danahy ’16

As the week progressed we often went to the holy grotto where the Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous. We said our prayers and then walked to the candle carts that were lined up next to each other featuring hundreds of slots in which to place candles.
There were sections in the carts for each language, such as English for the Americans and British, and German for our German friends. We would often light candles and put them in our country’s section.
When we arrived at the carts, there was a stand with hundreds of white and baby blue tapers. On the side of the cart was a sign that encouraged people to make an optional donation. Remarkably, I never saw anyone take a candle without paying.
Before we placed our candles into the slots, we would say a prayer. We would then reach forward with our candles and light them with one already burning inside the cart. As we placed the candles into the slots, I took in the ethereal scene around me.
We would watch as the wax dripped down the sides of each candle into the cart. There was a tray to collect the wax at the bottom of the cart, which would later be taken, scrapped, and melted into the same candles that we found in front of the carts. 
Each candle’s prayer therefore is passed onto the next candle in an endless and beautiful cycle. The prayers of each candle, like our experience in Lourdes, will always continue to live on. Always bright and always burning.
– Alexandra Dimitri, Managing Editor and Video Content Editor