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Neela Kale Answers:
Question: 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.