Can I claim religious exemption for a candle in my dorm?

dorm-candleQuestion: My dorm does not allow candles but I like to pray with a candle in front of my statue of Mary. Should I claim religious exemption?

Candles have a time-honored place as a symbol of prayer, especially in the Catholic tradition. In fact, at least two candles must be placed on the altar for the celebration of the Mass (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 117). But that doesn’t mean that you must use a candle when you pray in your room. For private devotional prayer a candle is a helpful symbol, not a requirement. Generally, religious exemptions are reserved for serious matters, when a rule impedes a person’s ability to practice his or her religious faith. That’s not at stake for you here. So don’t spend your time and energy petitioning for an exemption. Instead, consider a battery-operated candle — many newer styles are realistic and attractive. You can also take comfort in the fact that you won’t be living in a dorm room forever.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.