Candles in Lourdes
"Today, with our lighted candles, we too go to meet him who is “the Light of the world” and we welcome him in his Church with the full enthusiasm of our baptismal faith. Everyone who sincerely professes this faith is promised the final, definitive “meeting” with the Lord in his kingdom. In Polish tradition, as well in that of other nations, these blessed candles have a special meaning because, after they have been brought home, they are lit in times of danger, during storms and disasters, as a sign of entrusting oneself, one’s family and all one possesses to God’s protection. This is the reason why these candles are called gromnice in Polish, that is, candles which avert lightning and protect against evil, and why this feast is called Candlemas (literally: St Mary of the Candles [“gromnice”]).
Even more eloquent is the custom of putting the candle blessed on this day in the hands of a Christian on his deathbed, that it may illumine his last steps on the way to eternity. This practice is meant to show that, by following the light of faith, the dying person is waiting to enter the eternal dwelling place, where there is no longer “need of light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (cf. Rv 22:5).
The lighted candles carried by each person in the first part of this solemn liturgy show the watchful expectation of the Lord which should mark every believer’s life, and particularly the life of those whom the Lord calls to a special mission in the Church. They are a strong reminder to bear witness in the world to Christ, the light that never fades: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16)."
- Pope John Paul II, explaining the use of candles on Candlemas, 2 February.