Requirement for Wax Candles on the Altar?

Can someone link to the document that specifies that altar candles must be of wax and not oil-filled? I believe it was put out through the USCCB, but I cannot find it!


I am also interested in this as I have heard that Altar candles must be no less then 51% bee’s wax. The only candle in our parish that is Bee’s Wax is the Easter Candle and that is only because our priest purchased this out of pocket. All the rest are oil candles (parish council says a TON cheaper).

I found it finally!

Since the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has never employed the above-noted faculty to permit the use of materials other than wax in the production of candles, the use of such other materials either as a substitute for or in imitation of candles is not permitted in the liturgy. Therefore, oil lamps may be used only “in the case of the sanctuary lamp,” as indicated above. Candles made of wax are to be used in the celebration of the Mass and other liturgical rites. Furthermore, because of their very nature, imitations of candles should not be used in the liturgy as, for example, “permanent” paschal candles, nor should electric bulbs be used in liturgical celebration. In the interests of authenticity and symbolism, it is likewise unfitting that so-called electric vigil lights be used for devotional purposes.

Next question…how many parishes out there use the oil lamps as candles on the altar???


The hospital chapel uses oil lamps. Unfortunately, the quality of oil that they buy is so bad that the “candles” emit a strong odor. I had to serve as lector once and the smell gave me a migraine.

I will pass this information along to a friend of mine who serves as one of the chaplains.

What about the candles at the prayer alters to Mary or the patron of the parish? Is it a problem if they are the little fake eletric candles that shut off after an ammount of time?

I would think that as long as they are not used in liturgical celebration (and they’re not) then according to the USCCB reference they should be fine!

From the section quoted above:


You are most correct!

I missed it completely!

I wonder if this was always a rule? I have been in many old US churches that have the ‘bank’ of little red electrical “candles” in front of shrines.

Many churches are forced to use electric candles becasue of local fire codes.

Maybe, but these same churches all use actual flames for the altar candles and sanctuary lamp.

My Parish use Oil Candles. Our past Parish Priest purchased the two ‘candles’ on a visit to rome believing they would look perfect within our sanctuary … which in fairness - they do.

So using oil candles is classed as an abuse?

Apparently, yes…from what the USCCB has on their website.

ddd86 is in the UK. (from the looks of the links) - are they bound to the USCCB?


Yes. Oil candles are not permitted; they must be made of wax.

Another instance where it should be noted from where comes the post. The USCCB rules do not bind those of us posting from outside the USA. Based on fire codes a former pastor installed an electric sanctuary lamp in our church. I don’t think anyone noticed except those of us who were working there.

Then, after I’d ordered lots of wax altar candles the youth group made a huge purchase (several thousand dollars) of matching altar candles and processional cross. Wouldn’t you know that they special ordered acrylic tube oil candles and a ‘Risen Christ’ processional cross (our sanctuary cross already has a huge Risen Christ). It was only because the pastoral assistant at the time exclaimed “But we must have a crucified Christ in the sanctuary”, (making the youth group leaders extremely angry) that they turned around and ordered a cross with a corpus. Now, every Easter we are subjected to duplicate 'Risen Christs because, well “We spent all that money so we’re darn well going to use it and what better time?”

Even on Easter a church is required to have a crucifix in the sanctuary…resurrecifix’s don’t count.

I know that, but just try telling THEM.

Thank you for such a timely (for me!) question. A new church is being built in a neighboring parish and they are requesting funds for the purchase of oil candles. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. It sounded weird to me but I couldn’t find anything definitive about using only wax. And also, I went to a very large and beautiful, historical church in Chicago where they had electric votives and 2 gigantic candelabra complete with electric lights. Electric “candles” on the altar too. Why can’t priests (or liturgy committees or whoever) just do things correctly?:confused:

I haven’t seen any mention of this since your post. I had always assumed most candles were paraffin - what’s the advantage of beeswax?