WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Prayers Whispering to Each Other

By HP Rivers

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.”
—St. Francis of Assisi

I open my Facebook feed and find another tragedy. Another beloved in pain. Another hug so desperately needed that I cannot give. Or receive. Those all seem to be piling up these days.

I light a candle, then snap a quick photo. “For you and your family,” I text. “I love you and I’m thankful for you.”

Two hands cupping the flame at the top of a taper candle.

The part of me that is still Catholic by heritage can’t stop lighting candles. The part that is Pagan uses them to cast spells and set intentions. The part that is Human is learning that sometimes all we can do is bear witness.

I cannot always change the pain of the world, but I can acknowledge it. I can set a candle on my desk and remind myself that there is suffering dancing in the flame. I can send a photo—to a friend, to the group chat, to the mother of the child in the hospital—to say, “I cannot lessen your pain but I can sit with it with you, even from a distance.”

The heat of it fills my chest with a Love that is too big to be only mine, profound enough to be Godly. The precariousness of it, contained now in jar or chalice but capable of escaping to cause destruction at any time, reminds me that tomorrow it could be someone I love lighting a candle for me.

Sometimes, there is no reprieve from the pain of this world. Sometimes, it is too big and too obvious to ignore.

My grandfather did not take me to the church to change the world. He took me to the church to light a candle. At six years old, all toothless grins and sidewalk chalk, he brushed my forehead with holy water and told me about the little rows of prayers side by side, whispering to Each Other and to Godde.*

At seventeen, he sent me to the Vatican and said, “Light a candle for the family.”

I light candles for my family: the family that knows no form, no patriarchy, no mothers or fathers or leaders or sheep. My family of spirit, my family of love, my family of tears and sweat and healing and grace, dancing together in the flame towards a brighter tomorrow.


Godde, embrace this family of carbon and stardust, dancing and praying our way through the Universe, witnessing one another and with every holy sunrise, committing to loving one another through the pain. Blessed Be.

*HP uses the term Godde, a Middle English spelling of the word God, to encompass the Goddess-like and God-like natures of the Divine, which HP believes to be genderless and greater than any name we could give Them.