What’s with all of those little candles at Catholic churches?

As I’ve mentioned before, I listen to an hour of Catholic talk radio daily in order to stay abreast of what’s going on in the Catholic church for the purposes of this blog, although I obviously would not recommend the practice to others as a general rule. I used to listen to a local Catholic talk radio show, “The Catholic Connection,” but their recent decision to revamp their format and refrain from criticizing the church’s hierarchy has made for very dull listening, so I’ve switched to EWTN’s “Called to Communion,” an “outreach” to Protestants and lapsed Catholics.

This morning, I was listening to the 4/3/18 podcast of the “Called to Communion” show featuring moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders. A listener, Ken from Camden, Tennessee, called in and asked why Catholics have large candle displays in churches and at shrines. If you visit a Catholic church or a shrine, you’ll notice a large display of small “votive” (definition: “offered or consecrated in fulfillment of a vow”) candles, usually in red glass containers and placed in front of a statue of Jesus, Mary, or some other saint. Votive candles are made available to Catholics visiting a church or shrine. Supplicants contribute an offering into a nearby donation box, take a candle, light it, place it in the display, and then say a prayer to Jesus, Mary, or a saint. But why do Catholics do this, was Ken’s question.

Anders answered that the candles serve as physical signs and reminders that the supplicants’ prayers are going up to God (or to Mary or to a saint). He stated that it’s useful to have physical “props”/sensory objects so that the accompanying sounds, smells, lights, and touches “can help us elevate our minds to the eternal.” In Catholic parlance, candles and other such religious objects are “sacramentals,” supposedly “sacred signs” that bear a resemblance to the sacraments by which people “are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments.”

Anders qualifies his endorsement of candles by saying, “It would be wrong to think of (candles) in a superstitious way, as if the candle kept praying after (the supplicant is) gone.” But, of course, that is the exact thinking of many/most who use these candles.

Catholicism has always conflated the physical with the spiritual and votive candles are just one example in a multitude of many other such practices. In place of a genuine spiritual relationship with God through the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, the Catholic church has substituted ritualism, legalism, and the veneration of objects.

Pious Catholics love the ambiance of burning candles as part of their religious ritual, as if they somehow create an atmosphere of reverence and heightened spirituality. Practitioners believe a burning candle in conjunction with prayer will enhance the effectiveness of the prayer. And, yes, many/most walk away believing the prayer continues as long as the candle burns.


Votive candles are just part of the elaborate ritualism that developed within the increasingly institutionalized early church. Yes, in the Old Testament there was the lampstand/menorah standing in the Holy Place in Israel’s Tabernacle and Temple, which was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ as the Light of the World.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

But there’s no record of ritualistic candle burning in the New Testament. Besides that, nowhere in the entire Bible does a believer pray to anyone other than God. Burning candles while praying or “meditating” is also becoming popular among non-Catholics who are increasingly attracted to Catholic, New Age, and Eastern “mysticism.” We don’t need candles to “enhance” our prayers and we should only be praying to the Lord.

Catholic friend, religious ritualism and formalism do not help you merit Heaven. The Bible says we are all sinners and all of us deserve eternal punishment. But God loves us so much he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to live a perfect life and pay the penalty for our sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers you the free gift of eternal life if you will just come to Him in prayer, repent of your sin, and accept Him as your Savior by faith alone. Will you trust in Christ?

Is it allowable to use candles in connection with prayer?

Postscript: As an eighth-grade Catholic grammar school student, I remember our class going to the attached church building during school hours for some kind of religious service. In every Catholic church near the “altar” or “tabernacle” box (where surplus consecrated Jesus wafers are stored), burns a large candle in red glass, which is meant to symbolize the perpetual presence of Jesus in the church. The candle must never be allowed to go out. Well, on this particular occasion, our nun-teacher, Sister Virginia, noticed that the flame of the red candle had in fact gone out! She became emotionally frantic and completely discombobulated! From her reaction, you would have thought she was witnessing a four-year-old drowning in a pool. A student would have suffered injury if they had gotten in the way of the nun’s desperate race to relight the candle. It’s this kind of ritualistic, material-minded, superstitious, false spirituality that Catholicism breeds.

A Catholic church’s red “tabernacle” or “sanctuary” candle must never be allowed to go out

Canadian Catholics flocking to venerate Francis Xavier’s arm?

I was perusing through Catholic news over the weekend and came across the articles far below, which mention the tour of a “relic” of “saint” Francis Xavier, specifically his right arm (see photo above), across Canada this month. Xavier was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which was created in 1534 to counter the growing Reformation movement in Europe. Xavier spent the years 1541 to 1552 in India and the Far East, converting tens of thousands of souls to Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Today he is one of Catholicism’s most celebrated “saints.”

The church defines a relic as “a piece of the body of a saint, an item owned or used by the saint, or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint.”

The Catholic church has been collecting relics of “saints” for centuries. Catholics are encouraged to make pilgrimages to sites where relics are displayed in order to venerate and pray to the saint.

The purpose of relics, according to the church, are to “remind (Catholics) of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God’s work. At the same time, relics inspire (Catholics) to ask for the prayers of that saint and to beg the grace of God to live the same kind of faith-filled live.”

None of the above is Scriptural. We are to pray to God alone. There’s not one instance in the New Testament when a believer prayed to a dead believer or venerated one of their body parts or personal belongings. Praying to dead people and worshiping aka “venerating” their body parts is blasphemy. See the article, “How should a Christian view relics?,” here.

Xavier’s right arm will be presented for veneration/worship at 26 churches in 15 Canadian cities from Wednesday, January 3rd to Friday, February 2nd.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I wonder what Stephen J. Nichols of Ligonier Ministries thinks about the tour of Xavier’s right arm across Canada? Nichols betrayed the Gospel of grace when he included Xavier as one of the 26 “Heroes of the Faith” in his children’s book, “The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith.” See here.

Catholic friend, praying to dead saints or their body parts won’t save you. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. He is the only way to Heaven.

Question: “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

The holy and uncorrupted arm of St. Francis Xavier is crossing Canada for a two-week tour
The holy and uncorrupted arm of St. Francis Xavier is crossing Canada for a two-week tour

Canadian cities and churches where the relic is scheduled to visit:

Curious minds want to know: Are blessings transferable?

Catholics are taught that their priests are endowed with unique powers to bless material objects. When a priest blesses an object he allegedly imparts spiritual qualities to the item, which then bestow physical and spiritual benefits to the owner. Catholics bring their religious objects like rosaries, crucifixes, candles, medals, scapulars, prayer books, and statues to their parish priest for his blessing. Once an item has been blessed by a priest, it is considered to be a “holy” sacramental. A sacramental that is no longer wanted or is in poor condition may not be disposed of in the trash but must be buried or incinerated. Catholics also arrange for their priests to bless non-religious items like their houses, cars, and boats.

Today I was listening to the 5/12/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show (The Station of the Cross, WLOF, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY) featuring moderator Mike Denz and priest host, Dave Baker, taking questions from the listening audience and there was an interesting query about priestly blessings:

Mike Denz: We have a question about blessings from one of our listeners who emailed in. It starts off, “If your car has been blessed and you sell it, does the blessing expire or end with the new owner?”

Priest Baker didn’t sound all too sure in his response but conjectured that the blessing upon the car and anyone who travels in it remains intact even after the transfer of ownership UNLESS the new owner does something “to kick the blessing out” by being involved in a way of life that is “completely out of synch with the spirit of Christ.” Baker admitted that he wasn’t sure in such a case if the blessing leaves immediately or gradually fades away over time.

Denz then referred to the second part of the same listener’s question, which asked why the mandatory rule regarding burying or burning of unneeded or worn out blessed religious objects doesn’t also apply to unwanted homes, cars, boats, motorcycles (or airplanes, farm tractors, space shuttles, nuclear submarines, etc.) that were also blessed?

Priest Baker got a condescending chuckle over that one and patiently explained that religious objects are blessed and “consecrated” as items used in worship while blessed dwellings and vehicles aren’t consecrated and therefore don’t have to be ceremonially disposed of.

Is your head spinning yet? All of these teachings and regulations about blessings are man-made and nowhere to be found in the New Testament. Come out of ritualistic religion and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

Palm Sunday?

Many churches will celebrate Palm Sunday this weekend as a part of their liturgical calendar. But what does it all mean? Here’s a replay of my thoughts on the day from last year.


“A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from thePALM trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna (Deliver us!) to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!'” – Matthew 21:8-9

There’s probably a few out there thinking to themselves, “Oh great. What negative stuff is that excatholic4christ guy going to say about Palm Sunday?” No, let’s not be “negative” but let’s make sure we glorify Jesus Christ in all we say and do!

When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowd spread palm branches on the road, a customary way in those times of honoring a triumphant king returning from battle. They called out “Deliver us!” to this One many were whispering was the long promised Messiah, hoping He would save…

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Is it OK to eat Chicken in a Biskit crackers on Fridays during Lent?

It’s the first Friday of Lent so Catholics are instructed by their church they must abstain from eating any meat today or they will pick up a mortal sin that will doom them to hell. But how exactly does the church define “meat”? It’s not as simple as you might expect. Here’s a post from a year ago that examines the intricacies (and impossibilities) of attempting to follow a legalistic religion.


This morning I was listening to the 10/30/15 podcast of the Calling All Catholics talk radiocb show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. “Father” Dave Baker was taking questions, assisted by moderator, Mike Denz.

One of the listeners had a question regarding the church’s rule on abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, which I thought was quite timely because we’re currently in the Lenten season. Because the Catholic church absolutely forbids meat on Fridays during Lent, any Catholic who defiantly consumes meat commits a “mortal” sin and is doomed to hell for eternity unless they confess the sin to a priest.

But the rule’s not always as cut and dry as a juicy rib-eye steak or a succulent pork chop. The listener wanted to know if the ban on meat even included something like beef bouillon. “Father” Dave suggested that beef bouillon was probably okay to eat…

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Attention everyone! I’m fasting just so you know!

Today is Ash Wednesday for Catholics and the start of Lent on the Catholic liturgical calendar. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’m re-posting this message from last year.


I’m about 3.5 months behind in listening to the daily podcasts of the “CallingASB All Catholics” radio show on The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM, in Buffalo, NY) so please excuse me for the untimeliness of the subject matter.

This morning, I was listening to the 02/10/16 podcast featuring Catholic priest, Peter Calabrese. February 10th, Ash Wednesday, was the first day of Lent for Catholics this year and there was some discussion on the program about Lenten fasting and what to “give up” for the season.

Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation so Catholics are only encouraged to attend mass that day and receive ashes, but they are not required to do so. However, Catholics are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday. For Catholics, eating meat on Ash Wednesday is a “mortal” sin and will doom them to hell if they don’t confess…

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“If I take off my scapular prior to surgery and die on the operating table, will I still go to Heaven?”

This morning I was listening to the 1/13/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talkmg radio show broadcast on the Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY, with Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Mike Denz, taking questions from listeners.

Towards the end of the show, Mike read a question sent in from “Kim” in Rochester, NY regarding the brown scapular. But first, a little background:

Catholic tradition posits that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Carmelite friar, Simon Stock, in Aylesford, England in 1251 and presented him and his religious order with a brown scapular (a ceremonial apron), proclaiming, “the one who dies in it will be saved.” A smaller version of the scapular, basically two strings with patches of wool on each end that is draped over the head and rests on the shoulders (see photo of Catholic traditionalist, Mel Gibson, wearing his scapular), was created in the late-1500s so that lay people could also benefit from the scapular. A priest must first bless the scapular in order for it to transmit its advantages to the wearer. Untold millions of Catholics have worn the small, brown scapular over the last 430 years, believing that wearing the sacramental would earn or help earn their salvation as the Marian apparition had allegedly promised.

Okay, now let’s get back to Kim’s question. She asked, “If you have the brown scapular but you are having surgery and aren’t allowed to wear it, do the protections and benefits that it provides still apply if something happens?”

Priest Dave and Mike discussed this one for several minutes and concluded that while it’s extremely important to wear the scapular in order to gain Mary’s promise of salvation, there are probably some circumstances when it’s permissible to remove it temporarily such as during surgery, taking a shower, or while swimming. However, they acknowledged that some priests would advise that the benefits of the scapular would only be in effect if it was being worn. Dave and Mike also made sure to add in that the scapular wouldn’t do a person any good if they weren’t following the other teachings of the church. Dave also said that if a scapular becomes worn out, it can be replaced with a new one which does not need to be blessed. The blessing of the old one is grandfathered to the new. But hold on!!!! If the wearer of a brown Carmelite scapular switches to a different color scapular (red, black, blue, white, or green), Dave said they will need to have a priest bless the new one because each of the different colored scapulars has its own distinct protocols. Got that? Are you dizzy yet?

Can this ex-Catholic and born-again follower of Jesus Christ ask just a couple of questions?

1) Dave and Mike said a person needs to be following the prescribed teachings of the church for the scapular to be effective, but if a Catholic were already following the teachings of the church  – receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules – why would they need a scapular? Well, in works-righteous Catholicism the thinking goes that every little bit helps.

2) Dave opines an individual who dies without the scapular can still earn the promise of salvation if it was removed for a “legitimate” reason (surgery, swimming, showering, etc.), but other priests disagree and say the promise is null and void as soon as the scapular is removed. Who is right?

If you’re a blood-bought, born-again follower of Jesus Christ, you know all of the above is sheer anti-Scriptural superstition. But to a Roman Catholic trying to merit their way to Heaven, it all makes perfect sense.

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8

Come out of religious legalism and ritualism and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.


“Step back, Satan”

The other day I was listening to the May 5, 2016 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talkSB radio show on The Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM out of Buffalo, New York with Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Mike Denz, taking questions from listeners. During the show, the topic of conversation turned toward demonic possession and exorcism. Dave suggested that Catholics could protect themselves from demonic activity by wearing a Saint Benedict medal. I was a member of the Catholic church until around 1980 but I wasn’t familiar with the Saint Benedict medal, although its history goes back 1000 years.

The medal has the image of Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-543 or 547) on one side and the Latin inscription, Vade retro satana (“Step back, Satan”) on the reverse side. Tradition has it that Benedict was an Italian monk who lived in a mountain cave as a hermit. One day Satan visited Benedict and put lustful thoughts in his mind. Benedict stripped off his clothes and rolled in a nearby thorn-bush, completely lacerating his body and thereby purging all sinful thoughts. Another time, fellow clerics attempted to poison his food but Benedict allegedly escaped harm through miraculous intervention. Benedict is most famous for having created the rules and rituals of monastic life.

Catholics use a large variety of sacramentals blessed by priests to ward off evil and bring good favor including holy water, scapulars, medals, palm fronds, rosaries, statues, candles, crucifixes, etc. Catholicism is a religion of the concrete (physical) and action. God’s grace is received through the priest’s administration of the sacraments. A Catholic must always “do” to attempt to maintain their good-standing: go to church, receive communion, visit a shrine, display sacramentals in the home, etc. One must say the rosary so many times, go to mass on the first Fridays of the month so many times, say a novena so many times, etc. There’s a ritual for every occasion. It’s a religious treadmill. Somewhere buried deep under the rituals and religious striving is Jesus Christ. He’s the One you need.

Catholic friend, wearing a medal or any other religious object won’t protect you. You won’t find any reference to wearing blessed objects for protection in the Bible. We must come to God by faith, by accepting God the Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior by faith. Religious routines won’t make us holy. Pious rituals won’t make us acceptable before a Holy God. You could wear 100 Saint Benedict medals and it wouldn’t do any good. Protection from demons? Satan’s biggest lie is that people can earn their way to Heaven by being religious and “good.” But only God is good. Accept Christ. Rest in His righteousness, not your own. We don’t have any. After you’ve accepted Christ, then follow Him as Lord. Ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise. You’re no doubt a little nervous even contemplating leaving your religion. Follow Christ. Everything else is worthless in comparsion.

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:2-4

Rules about “holy water.” Who knew?!?!

Today, I was listening to the April 8, 2016 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talkHW radio show on the Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, out of Buffalo, New York. This particular broadcast featured Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Rick Paolini, taking questions from listeners.

During the show, Rick related how he and his wife often volunteered at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. According to Rick, visitors often bring empty receptacles and fill them with blessed “holy water” provided by the shrine from large dispensers kept outside. One winter day, a gentleman showed up with “14 or 15” plastic containers to fill up for his friends, but it was so cold outside that most of the holy water in the shrine’s dispensers had frozen. The gentleman improvised by filling each of his containers with just a little unfrozen holy water, saying he would return home and fill them to the brim with tap water before distributing them to his friends. Rick was troubled by this and asked father Baker if it was copacetic to dilute holy water as the gentleman had done. Father Dave answered that it was okay to dilute holy water, but the ratio of holy water to tap water had to be greater than 50 percent otherwise the holy water would lose its “holiness.”

Huh? Are you serious?

Catholics believe water blessed by a priest can bring great spiritual and temporal benefits to people and objects that come in contact with it. Catholics dip their fingers in holy water fonts at church and make the sign of the cross on their shoulders and forehead. Zealously pious Catholics often have holy water fonts in their homes. At Catholic religious services and events you can often see the officiating cleric blessing the crowd by sprinkling holy water on them.

Holy water has its roots in pagan amulets and talismans. There’s nothing in the Bible that hints at anything like holy water (see the comments section for clarification on Numbers 5). The Bible reader can’t imagine the apostles or disciples of the early church using pagan holy water. Father Dave says holy water can’t be diluted by more than 49 percent tap water. Really? Where do Catholics come up with these exacting ecclesiastical rubrics? The poor, deluded gentleman and his fifteen friends were unknowingly blessing themselves with holy water that had no holiness. Not that the results were ANY different either way.

Friends, none of this scrupulous and superstitious ritualism saves. Salvation is as simple as the story of the thief on the cross. Repent of your sins. Turn to Jesus Christ. Accept Him as your Savior by faith. Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches His Word without compromise. You’ll never need another drop of holy water ever again. Jesus is all you need!

“I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks.” – Isaiah 65:2-3

Nope, we’re not done with holy water rules quite yet. How do Catholics correctly dispose of holy water? Since holy water is a blessed sacramental, you can’t just flush it down the toilet like a bad clam. Excess holy water or holy water that’s become foul must be poured directly onto the ground or on plants growing outside.

Attention everyone! I’m fasting just so you know!

I’m about 3.5 months behind in listening to the daily podcasts of the “CallingASB All Catholics” radio show on The Station of the Cross (101.7 FM, in Buffalo, NY) so please excuse me for the untimeliness of the subject matter.

This morning, I was listening to the 02/10/16 podcast featuring Catholic priest, Peter Calabrese. February 10th, Ash Wednesday, was the first day of Lent for Catholics this year and there was some discussion on the program about Lenten fasting and what to “give up” for the season.

Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation so Catholics are only encouraged to attend mass that day and receive ashes, but they are not required to do so. However, Catholics are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday. For Catholics, eating meat on Ash Wednesday is a “mortal” sin and will doom them to hell if they don’t confess the sin to a priest. Catholics are also obligated to fast on Ash Wednesday, which the church defines as “eating one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.”

On Ash Wednesday, faithful Catholics line up during mass and the priest makes the sign of the cross on their foreheads with ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm fronds. The ashes symbolize “mourning and penance” for sin and also mark the receiver as “belonging to Christ.” Catholics usually keep the ashes on their forehead for the remainder of the day for all others to see. As a Catholic youngster, my parochial schoolmates and I were very proud of our ashes and we were scandalized whenever we a saw someone that day who we knew to be a Catholic without ashes.

Yet the Bible says something very different about fasting and our relationship with God:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:16-18

Walking around in public all day with ashes as a sign of fasting and penance doesn’t agree with God’s Word.

However, no amount of fasting and religious ritual can make us right with a Holy God. We break God’s laws every day in thought, word, deed, or by omission. But God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to Earth, lived a perfect life, and died for your sins. He paid the penalty that you owe. But He rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and He offers you the gift of eternal salvation and fellowship with God if you’ll only repent of your sins and accept Him as your Savior. What are you waiting for?

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” – Ephesians 1:7