Candlemas of Innocents: A remembrance of lost infants

By Megan Marley

INDEPENDENCE — The tradition of Candlemas takes its roots from Luke’s Gospel, when Mary completed a ritualistic cleansing 40 days after Jesus’ birth and He was presented as firstborn, both in accord with Mosaic Law. While they were in the Temple, the prophet Simeon declared Jesus was ‘A light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel’. Hence the Church developed a custom of lighting and blessing candles to be used throughout the year on this feast day.

The Candlemas of Innocents held February 2 at St. Mary’s in Independence added another layer of meaning for the feast.

The high Latin Mass held that evening was to help parents grieve and present to God their children lost in infancy, miscarriage or abortion, and for couples who are struggling to conceive a child.

Nearly forty people processed from the side chapel into the main church that night carrying newly-blessed candles, with names of their lost children or other prayer intentions written on the paper candleholders. Mass goers held the lit candles through the Gospel, and as they went up for communion the re-lit candles were placed in a bowl of sand to burn as a votive.

This is the third year Fr. Matthew Bartulica, pastor of St. Mary’s, has held such a Mass, in arrangement with the post-abortion healing group Project Rachel. It is also the first year the Mass was in the Extraordinary Form, accompanied by the St. Mary’s choir and Labor Mariae religious sisters.

In his homily, Fr. Bartulica mentioned how early Christians were known for rescuing unwanted babies left out to die by their pagan neighbors, and how that was something unusual in those times.

“That is one thing that our Faith from the beginning, and various early bishops of the Church speak of the fact, that our Faith has revealed something new to us. Precisely: the value of every human life,” he said.

“We celebrate that Child that brought salvation into the world for us, and with all of our children, those that have been lost, that are with Our Lord,” said Fr. Bartulica, “only He knows and cares for the creation of life that He gives to us.”

To those who lost children through abortion, he spoke of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

“Now we come to God with purified hearts, realizing that only He can take away any pains that we might have in our life, and realizing truly the gift of our Faith,” he said.

“Today’s Mass is offered for all of you here, those of you having difficulty conceiving a child, that Our Lord may heal your hearts, that you may draw closer to Him.”

Fr. Bartulica plans to offer confessions and a special Mass every year for Candlemas on February 2, and invites all who have lost an infant or are struggling to conceive to attend. For more information on Project Rachel, contact Teresa Hoeppner at


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November 01, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph