Blog Post

Using Incense During Prayer

MP writes: “I have a question concerning the way I pray and honor God and even the saints and angels. I have a collection of incense of many scents at home, and although I know the Church uses incense, it's Japanese incense, normally used for pagan practices . . ."

" . . . I really like praying with it as a timer sometimes because each stick burns for about 30 minutes, which is a good amount of time spend doing a little something for/with God like reading the Bible. I also sometimes say a quick prayer and leave the incense burning to honor the Blessed Mother, a saint, or an angel of Catholic canon, and of course God Himself. I asked my local priest to bless my incense and he said it was a lovely idea but I wanted to ask you . . ."

Before addressing the type of incense, it’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with the burning of incense during personal prayer. As we read in Psalm 141, "Let my prayer come like incense before you; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.”

The burning of incense has been in use by all of the world’s major religions since antiquity, usually for purification purposes or as an offering to a deity. It also has more practical uses such as warding off insects and to mask odors.

It generally comes in two forms – direct and indirect burning.

Direct burning incense (sticks, cones) is lit directly by a flame which is then snuffed, leaving the ember to smolder and emit the fragrance. Indirect burning incense (powders, pastes) requires some other heat source in order to burn.

The use of incense by Christians is believed to have come from the Jewish tradition dating back to the time of Moses when the Lord instructed him to burn incense in front of the veil to the entrance of the meeting tent where the ark of the covenant was kept (Ex 30:1-10). Incense was also used as a thanks offering along with oil, rain, fruits and wine (Numbers 7:13-17).

Some people have expressed concern about whether or not incense bought from non-Christian sources may come with “blessings.”

As this blog explains, the art of incense crafting in some countries does indeed involve spiritual rituals, particularly those fashioned in cultures where incense is used medicinally. However, as the article states, this is not the norm.

If you want to be sure, you can always have your incense blessed or buy it from Catholic sources such as St. Patrick's Guild or Church Supply Warehouse.

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