Some personal insights, the first creepy and the second positive from my personal experiences:
My uncle was killed in the Korean War before I was born. My maternal Grandparents dedicated their lives to his memory, becoming the national heads of the American Gold Star Mothers and Fathers (a support organization for parents of fallen soldiers) and even being invited to the White House for tea with JFK and the First Lady. What I remember about "Junior" (whom I had never met) was a large black and white photo of him over a mantle with eyes that stared at you wherever you moved and a black frame around the picture. There was a black cloth wreath draped around the photo and an altar set up below it on the mantle. An icon and statue of some saint was there. A copy of the card from his funeral announcement was there. A wooden box with every letter he wrote from Korea. And a place for small votive candles. My grandparents would talk to the picture like he was in that photo and they would say prayers for him and light a prayer candle. When my Grandparents died, my mother took over possession of the shrine to 'Junior' and offering prayers for him. When her children died, their pictures replaced Junior's on the shrine.
I never understood it at the time, being raised barely protestant and mostly atheist by my father, but I eventually studied Catholic Doctrine and Theology and understood, in hindsight, what was going on. Only those sins that Junior confessed to a priest and received forgiveness for were forgiven. As a soldier in Korea, who knows what he did between his last confession and his death. Who knows if a Priest was able to perform the sacred sacrament of Last Rights to usher his soul into heaven. All those unforgiven sins must be paid for in purgatory. Junior must suffer for a portion of his sins, not eternal, but torment just the same. Prayers offered by his loved ones can shorten his time in purgatory. They dedicated their lives to a transfer of grace from their account to Juniors, to shorten his punishment and hasten his entrance into heaven.
Less you think this uncommon, when you visit a Catholic Church, see for yourself the wall with all of the prayer candles. If they have a copy, read the prayer that one is to say when one lights a candle. This would have been no different in Colonial Times, during the Reformation, or during the Middle Ages.
Lord, may this candle be a light for you to enlighten me in my decisions,
And may it be a fire for you to purify me from all pride and selfishness.
May it be a flame for you to build warmth into my heart towards my family, my neighbors and all those who meet me.
Through the prayers of Mary, virgin and mother, I place in your care those I come to remember, especially __________.
In leaving this candle, I wish to give you something of myself.
Help me to continue this prayer into everything I do this day.
The Power of Catholicism:
I do not want to leave you with the impression that Catholicism is evil or bad. I am not even anti-Catholic. For the record, I heard the gospel from Lay Catholics and was converted from atheism to Christianity by Catholic Charismatics. I even considered joining the Catholic Church at one point, but could not accept the doctrines on Mary as Biblically supportable and could not in good conscience affirm what they believed.
As a Catholic, you belong to the ONE TRUE APOSTOLIC CHURCH! These are not just empty words. The Catholic Church IS the church that met in the upper room in Acts Chapter 2. The Priest that placed the wafer in your mouth and blessed you was anointed by a man to serve as Shepherd over God's flock, by a man who was anointed by a man who was anointed and this chain of anointing can be traced all the way back to the Apostle Peter who was anointed by Jesus Christ. Do yo remember Jesus instructions when he took Peter aside in John 21? (Simon, feed my sheep). When the Priest blesses you, it is like the hand of Christ himself has blessed you!
All of these Protestants, they have revolted against Jesus. Against God's anointed Church. They are prodigal sons who have run away. They appoint their own priests to tell them what they want to hear. They are like the Northern Kingdom who has rejected the throne of David and the Temple in Jerusalem and declared that they will worship God how man chooses, not how God Commands.
Not you. Not a Catholic. Your faith is based on the unbroken succession from Jesus, through Peter, the Rock upon which God said he would build his church, in an unbroken succession to the current generation. You are the one true church. Obedient to God and not in rebellion. Your understanding is set down in the writings of the church councils and has remained unchanged for centuries. Even then, the changes are only new clarifications of the writings of the earliest church fathers, those taught by the apostles themselves, in response to some new error introduced by the Protestants. No wonder the Protestants can't agree on anything. They have walked away from the true church of God to follow doctrines of man. As a Catholic, your faith is in the Church founded by Christ himself and blessed by succession through Peter.
On a practical level, once a Catholic, always a Catholic. You may rebel against God and his church, but God and his church will always hope and pray that you will return.
On a personal level, the Southern Baptist and Church of God and Evangelical Free Church that I later attended, would have called security to have my 17 year old atheist, gang self removed from the building (and rightly so). However those Catholic Charismatics loved and endured me for a year while the Holy Spirit cleaned up my act from the inside out. Say what you must about their messed up theology, Catholics can walk the talk.