Samuel Rayan (b. 1920) is an Indian Jesuit priest and theologian. He said this:
“A candle-light is a protest at midnight. It says to the darkness, ‘I beg to differ’.”
This is why, when I light a candle in the Cathedral and let it hold my prayer for me, it is an act of protest as well as an act of prayer and devotion (perhaps the three are more connected than I realised. Can protest be prayer?). It is saying to the darkness, “No, you won’t win”. It is saying to the weight of suffering in the world, “No, you will not crush me and you will not crush us”. It is saying to the sadness inside, “You will not be with me forever”.
Sometimes I feel burdened by the suffering I know about. Friends, people I love. People I know. People I hear of. People about whom I say, “I’ll keep them in my prayers”, until the list of people for whom I must pray becomes overwhelming. People for whom my heart mourns. That’s to say nothing of those people about whom I don’t know. People whose names and stories I’ll never hear but whose suffering adds to the weight of the world. And in a week where Australia has announced that those people desperate and brave enough to travel dangerous waters to seek asylum on our shores will now be sent for “off-shore processing” and will be denied the right to ever seek to live in Australia – well, that weight bears down even more unbearably.
It doesn’t seem enough, somehow, just lighting a candle. Leaving it to burn bravely in the darkness. But just at the moment, that’s all I can do. So take that, darkness: check out my protest.