Incense in the Catholic faith signifies holiness, purity, and God’s presence. It’s also used to proclaim blessings and during prayer. While incense is often burnt during mass and other religious events, you can also burn it at home. In this guide, we explain how to use catholic incense at home for spirituality or just to create a nice aroma.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does Incense Signify In the Catholic Church?
The practice of burning incense goes far back even before Catholicism. It even predates the days of Abraham.
Ancient Egypt was likely the first place where incense was burnt in temples and tombs.
The practice was also common in the Old Testament. In Exodus 30:1, God instructs Moses to make an altar for burning incense. In verse 7 and 8, there are further instructions regarding the altar.
Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly.
Burning incense has been taken up by many religions, and in most of them the aromatic smoke represents an offering of blessing, prayer, or sacrifice to a deity.
It’s no different in the Catholic Church where incense has been used for centuries.
Smoke from a censer or thurible (the container in which incense is burnt) signifies prayers rising up to heaven.
It can also represent the holiness and presence of God. Many priests also burn incense while offering blessings.
At home, you can use Catholic incense for all these reasons. You can do it as often as you want or during special days like Easter.
Incense is also a great way to add a beautiful aroma to your home, either indoors or outdoors.
What’s The Best Type Of Incense (Resin Incense vs. Sticks)?
Resin incense is the best type of incense for several reasons.
- The resin is usually pure with no additives. So you can be sure it’s not producing any harmful chemical fumes.
- Good quality pure resin incense burns clean with a pleasant smoke.
- You can combine two or more different kinds of resin to create a mixed aroma. Types of resin incense include frankincense, dragon blood, copal, and benzoin.
The main downside of resin is that it’s a bit of work to burn it. You need a place to burn it in, charcoal or a candle, tongs, and a lighter.
Incense sticks are much easier to use. You simply light the stick and leave it to smolder. All you need is an incense stick holder.
On the downside, it can be difficult to find good quality incense sticks. Some incense sticks in stores are filled with chemicals and some produce acrid smoke that’s not very pleasant to smell.
Even chemical-free incense sticks may not be as pleasant as you expected. Some contain too much oil, which results in thick smoke.
That said, incense sticks are worth a try if you are on a budget (they are cheaper than resin) or don’t want the hassle of burning resin incense.
Look for natural or organic incense sticks without chemical additives.
Read also: Smelling Incense When None Is Burning
How To Burn Incense At Home
How To Burn Resin Incense
Here’s what you need to burn resin incense at home.
- Pure resin. If you are not sure which type of resin you want to get, we recommend getting a mixed bag with different types like frankincense, copal, and dragon’s blood.
- Self lighting charcoal discs or briquettes. You can also get small coal tablets made specifically for incense burners.
- Tongs to hold the hot charcoal.
- An incense burner, also called a censer or thurible. You can also use a fire-proof container like a ceramic bowl or ashtray.
- A lighter.
The first step is to light up the charcoal. You just need a single piece of charcoal. Make sure it is small enough to fit in your incense burner. If necessary, break up a large piece to get smaller pieces.
Holding the piece of charcoal with a pair of tongs, hold it up over a lighter or a lit candle. Let the flame burn several spots until you see them glowing.
Place the charcoal into a clean censer or burner and wait for it to fully light up. This takes about three to five minutes. You’ll know the charcoal is ready when it turns gray.
Take a piece of resin incense and place it carefully over the smoldering piece of charcoal.
If you are using resin granules or powder, position them on the sides of the charcoal rather than directly on top.
This will slow down how quickly the granules or powders burn, ensuring longer burn time and just the right amount of smoke.
Close the censer (if it has a lid) and enjoy the aroma.
Be sure to keep an eye on the incense. Once it burns out, put out the charcoal by removing it and dipping it in water or add more incense if you want to keep enjoying the aroma.
Safety tip: Never leave the burner unattended especially if there are kids or pets around. Charcoal can easily start a fire if the burner is knocked over. Also, the burner will get hot. Keeps kids away from it.
Here’s a detailed video showing how to burn resin incense.
How To Burn Incense Sticks
You don’t need a lot of stuff to burn incense sticks – just the sticks and an incense holder.
Light the incense stick with a lighter or candle and wait for it to ignite. Once it’s burning, gently blow out the flame. This will leave the tip of the stick smoldering and smoking.
Place the stick in a holder.
Can You Burn Incense Without Using Charcoal?
If you don’t want to burn charcoal or you find that charcoal doesn’t burn your incense probably, you can use a candle to burn incense.
You’ll need a candle incense burner like this one. You place a tealight at the bottom and the resin incense at the top.
Using a candle can reduce the amount of smoke the incense produces, allowing you to get a more pleasant fragrance. This can also be healthier if you or someone in your family has a respiratory problem like asthma.
Using a candle also increases burn time since the incense is not in direct contact with the heat source.
Another option is an electric incense burner like this one. It burns the incense at low temperatures, ensuring you get less smoke, a more intense aroma, and a longer burn time.
Is Burning Incense Bad For Your Health?
Burning incense has been associated with several health benefits, especially mental ones. It’s calming and relaxing. It can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
There are, however, some health concerns associated with burning incense including cancer, respiratory problems like asthma and inflammation.
But it is likely that these risks are high when incense is used improperly or when you burn low quality incense that has chemical additives.
Here are some tips for safely using Catholic incense.
- Always burn incense in a well ventilated area or outdoors. If you burn it indoors, open the windows to prevent a build up of particulates in the air.
- If possible, always use pure resin incense. It contains no additives and fillers that can affect your health.
- Consider using a charcoal-free method to burn incense. We’ve explained two alternatives above: using a candle or an electric burner. Eliminating charcoal makes for a cleaner burn.
- Only burn incense for limited periods such as when praying or meditating. If you want your home to smell nice all the time, consider other options like an essential oil diffuser.