Q: I sometimes participate in Mass at a church where the priest often has a whole wall of candles and a crucifix along the front of the altar which sometimes makes it hard to see what the priest is doing. It seems like it is meant to serve as a separating wall between the celebrant and the faithful rather than to provide solemn and beauty to the altar. But what bothers me the most is that only two of the candles are actually lit at Mass. Isn’t it customary to remove all extraneous paraphernalia from the altar? Just wondered.
A: Here are some previous posts:
Candlesticks are to be placed in such a way that “the faithful may not be impeded from a clear view of what takes place at the altar or what is placed upon it” (GIRM 307). This is not just for the sake of watching the priest, but for the people’s own participation. The altar is not the priest’s altar alone. It is the people’s altar too. They too have come to offer sacrifice there.
I know of no rules for unlighted candles, but common sense would indicate that unused items should be removed from the altar.