"My soul longs for salvation.
I have put my hope in you.
When will you comfort me?" - Psalm 119: 81-82
There's a shrine to St. Jude in the courtyard of a church in Seville, Spain, that receives dozens of visitors every day—rich women dressed to the nines; others more modest, clothes off the rack; students, functionaries, pierced teens, sanitation workers in orange vests. Morning, noon, and night there's a gaggle for Jude.
They light one-Euro candles. Each small flame is a begging hope, a need as deep as life: Help me find a job. Help me conceive. Make my mother well. My children never call or come. My husband has someone on the side.
Some light two-Euro candles. Their prayers require the bigger one. They come back every day, the need incessant, intractable. St. Jude, the patron of lost causes, the saint of last resort. He never lacks work.
Observing this scene as a Protestant, you might be tempted to disapprove. People shouldn't pray to saints—for this we had the Reformation. If you're globally-minded, you might be put off by these purely personal prayers. No candles for systemic injustice? For wider concerns?
But this isn't a place for thinking. It's a place for witnessing. Here it's better just to watch as fragile folk pour out their hearts to someone they hope will listen. Better to be reverent here and learn that suffering is suffering, need is need, hope of mercy is hope of mercy, no matter what or who or where, no matter why or how. Better here to feel your own begging need, to see your likeness to these strangers, to light a candle of your own, one-Euro or two, depending.
When will you comfort me, O God, my hope? Lord, hear my prayer.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.