A faith illuminating the darkness: Saint-Barthélemy’s youth minister designs Easter candles for churches

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JScotty Biggs’ flame of faith is clearly evident today. It burns in the three-foot-tall Paschal candle he designed for the Easter-themed altar at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Columbus.

The creation was first used at the Saturday Easter Vigil Mass, illuminating the darkness as a sign of the light of Christian faith and resurrection.

The work of the church’s youth and young adult ministry coordinator also rests today at the altar of a church in Louisville, Kentucky.

“When there’s an opportunity to make art, I jump on it,” Biggs said.

That’s exactly what he did a few years ago.

Catholic monks from St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana, were teaching teens candle painting in 2018 and asked if Biggs, who was part of the One Bread One Cup leadership training program, would be interested in learning. They were unaware that his journey includes considerable iconography.

Candles must contain at least 51% beeswax, as the Catholic Church relies on natural elements related to the Mass.

“Part of the idea is that God takes the natural and turns it into the supernatural,” Biggs said. “That’s true for all of us as individuals, and that’s one of the reasons I really love making the candles.

“Because they are a good reminder that God is taking my natural human nature and turning it into something more. Same for beeswax. God can even use this to glorify his name.

The candles are so named because the Latin and Greek word Pascha (or Paschal for “Easter”) provides the root for Easter, the French word for Easter.

Reverend Clem Davis, St. Bartholomew’s senior associate pastor, loves Biggs’ work — and is impressed with the candle-design efforts of the eighth-grade students at St. Bartholomew’s Elementary School whom Biggs now guides into the shape of ‘art.

“When you know the artist (of the candles), I think that makes the meaning all the more powerful,” Davis said.

The longtime local priest mentioned that many Catholics may be unaware of the deep and extensive symbolism of the candle. The wick of the candle signifies the humanity of Christ and the flame his divine nature. It is adorned with one or more Christian symbols, including the cross to represent his ransom sacrifice.

It features the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – the alpha and the omega – to signify that Jesus is the beginning and the end. And in Biggs’ candle, he creatively and colorfully interspersed the artistic and scenic interior roofline of St. Barts into the design backdrop.

“You have a bit of artistic freedom,” Biggs said.

For example, on the first candle he designed for Saint Barthélemy, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread fear in March 2020, he added a crown symbol, since the syllable corona in coronavirus means crown.

“It was to remind us that no matter what, Christ is King,” Biggs said.

Both Biggs and Davis believe that many believers are unaware of many of the artistic meanings.

“I don’t believe most people are aware of all the (general) symbolism,” Davis said, adding that he has given teachings about it.

Biggs especially wants to reach young Catholics with visual reminders to strengthen their faith.

“Using the arts to educate, catechize and proclaim the gospel has become part of my passion,” Biggs said. “I myself hadn’t even realized most of these things until I started painting the candles.”

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