‘Candle’s Great Feast’ Points Children to the Wonder of the Mass
“Be patient, and don’t despair … (this is) a feast for kings, queens, and servants alike. All are invited, and the music and singing will never end.”
One by one, the candles with the best aromas and greatest design leave the candle shop that sits on a busy street. And day by day, the small candle tucked farthest away from the light, in the back of the shelf, loses hope.
Thus begins the endearing story of one small candle’s yearning to be part of a great feast, and the way God answers his hope in a most glorious way — through being chosen to be part of the greatest feast of all, the Eucharistic feast.
“This book, with its charming illustrations and simple text, inspires young and old readers alike to contemplate the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,” notes Catholic author and speaker Danielle Bean in her endorsement.
Candle’s Great Feast, a collaboration by first-time author Kristina Lahr and illustrator Virginia de la Lastra, may have a simple message, but its behind-the-scenes story is anything but that.
Lahr, who works in communications for the Diocese of Fargo, was in a place of discouragement when the little candle first appeared to her in her imagination. Feeling defeated in her writing life, she took her consternation to God one day during Eucharistic Adoration.
“Sometime in 2017, I found myself at the Adoration chapel at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo. I’d come discouraged and exhausted, and prayed that Jesus would show me a new direction in my life or provide some consolation that I was on the right path.”
While sitting in Jesus’ presence, Lahr says, she poured out her lamentations. “I found myself staring at the monstrance and wishing my life could be more like one of the four candles surrounding it,” Lahr says. “They didn’t question the desires God gave them. They didn’t feel trapped. They didn’t worry if they were good enough.”
And in the middle of this despairing moment, a little candle jumped into Lahr’s mind, seeming as real as any creation she’d ever dreamed of up to that point.
“I wrote the first draft of Candle’s Great Feast in the chapel without any idea what I’d do with it,” Lahr says.
For several years, she kept it close, but tucked away — like the candle in the back of the shelf — but, Lahr says, every time she returned to the chapel, “Jesus would remind me of that little candle and how happy I’d been writing about him.”
She continued refining the manuscript, later pairing her words with the artistic talents of de Lastra, whose lively illustrations bring additional vitality to the endearing tale.
On the practice of Adoration, Lahr says, “It is super beautiful just to be in the presence of God. That’s not to say every time I go to the Adoration chapel it’s this amazing out-of-body experience, and that the Lord bestows his wisdom every second. It’s not that way.”
Most of the time, she simply sits in silence and waits, “to see if the Lord has anything to say.” Sometimes, she’ll get a “tidbit here or there,” but not always something “earth-shattering.” “I think there’s something to be said about being consistent, coming forward and just saying, ‘Okay God, I’m here. You do your work, because there’s really nothing more I can do, so I’ll just sit.’”
Lahr continues, “Being in the Adoration chapel, there’s power in that. When I’m at home, I can watch TV or do dishes. It’s just so easy to do those other things,” but at Adoration, the usual distractions disappear. “The Lord can do amazing things with that. Even if you just have a half-hour once a month, that’s such a great start. I think the Lord can work with that much, as long as we’re willing to go.”
The confluence of the book’s release coinciding with her diocese’s lifting of the local dispensation to attend Mass, Lahr says, has brought additional meaning to the experience.
“I feel blessed and honored that it’s coming out right now — not just in our diocese, but as more people are coming back to Mass everywhere, we are recognizing why Mass is so important, why we do it, and we’re rediscovering the beauty of the faith we’ve lost through the last year.”
One early reader, who wasn’t even Catholic, began crying as she read the story in a writing-group session, Lahr says. “I don’t know specifically what moved her, but I think it was, at the very end, where the candle says, ‘Be patient, and don’t despair … (this is) a feast for kings, queens, and servants alike. All are invited, and the music and singing will never end.’”
The illustrator added her own depth, noting at the book’s beginning that she based the design of the church in the story on Iglesia San Francisco de Borja in Santiago, Chile, which was looted and burned by protestors in 2020.
De la Lastra is a physician, illustrator and apologist who leads the Chilean Chesterton Society, and illustrates for “An Unexpected Journal,” and for her medical students, family and friends.
Lahr says she didn’t intend to write a children’s book. “I’ve spent considerably more time and energy working on a novel, short stories, articles, and other musings,” she shares on her website. “While I hope some of my other stories will find their way to the spotlight someday, a little candle stole the show first.”
Bishop John R. Folda of the Fargo Diocese calls the book “a delightful story of hope, self-giving, and joy,” adding, “In our own way, we can all give glory to God, and therein find true happiness.”
“The Eucharist is real and beautiful,” Lahr says, “and there’s something more here we can discover and appreciate about the Mass.”