Real Lighted Candles or You’re a Flop

Today is one of those days when social media can make Catholic women everywhere feel like losers before they’re even done with their morning coffee. “My daughter didn’t wake everyone up with breakfast on a tray while wearing a traditional, handmade Saint Lucy costume with real lighted candles on her head! I don’t even know who Saint Lucy is or why she has candles on her head! I don’t even have a daughter!”

It’s not a big deal but it can feel like an epic fail, or at least it did to me. In my effort to do better I sat my kids down a few years ago to feed them traditional Santa Lucia buns while I told them the story of how Saint Lucy had her eyes gouged out and was martyred. I thought it was a complete success and I gloried in my excellent mothering. That is until a family viewing of “The Nativity Story,” during which my five-year-old son asked when the woman was going to lose her eyes.

No matter how many times I explained that Saint Lucy was not in this story he couldn’t move on. As the Virgin Mary was about to birth our Lord and Savior in a humble stable, he asked again, “Is she gonna lose her eyes?”


Unlike me, the Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness (Psalm 145:8). The Lord’s motivation for all He does is love while my motivation is often applause, frustration, or envy, and when I fail my response is, obviously, seriously lacking.

The lesson I learned on that Saint Lucy’s Day is that Christ should be my only standard, and on this Feast of Saint Lucy, whose name means light, my family celebrates the True Light who has come into the darkness, including the darkness of my insecure, jealous heart.

Christ should be my only standard. Click To Tweet

Learn more about Saint Lucy’s life, the origins of the feast day, and the traditions here.

Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker, and homemaker. She, her husband, and seven children live in central Illinois, and her son’s alleged miraculous healing through the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen was submitted to the Vatican for Sheen’s beatification. Bonnie pretends she has a green thumb, bakes a fantastic chocolate chip cookie, loves naps and chai tea, and blogs. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of the Blessed Conversations Mystery: Believe study found here


  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 5:30 am

    I think Bonnie may be misreading the intentions of people who celebrate the Feast of St Lucy and share online about it. This devotion sounds very judgmental towards people who do make an effort. I do it out of love of the Saint who is my namesake, not to show off or make others feel bad. I hope everybody has a lovely day, filled with the light of Christ.

    • Reply
      December 13, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      To understand this you have to be on social media. This is poking fun at the families who have to do it all but lose the meaning. Lighting your child’s head aflame, plying them with copious amounts of sugar before dawn and driving home an unholy fear of losing one of their 5 senses isn’t “a genuine effort”…it’s the Catholic version of keeping up with the Joneses. A bit of humor helps people to slow down, reflect and do a bit better.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Thank you for this! As much as the Catholic Instagram community can be inspiring, it can also become quite intimidating. I appreciate the clarity and humor in your post!

  • Reply
    Sara Kurczewski
    December 13, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Thank you for the laugh this morning! I could relate on so many levels to your piece and it was a beautiful reminder.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 7:07 am

    That’s hilarious! Kids get so focused on things sometimes! Thanks for the reminder that I told my kids we’d have cinnamon rolls to honor St. Lucy today! They are in the oven!

  • Reply
    Joey Kolasinsky
    December 13, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for this reflection today. I laughed out loud and then became intrigued by the St. Lucy traditions and story. It’s funny what kids focus on and how they are intent to put the story together – even if it is not the correct one.

  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Okay, Bonnie, I almost spit out my coffee on this one! Thanks for the great devotion, but most of all the laugh. I needed that. You and I would be great friends, because I can totally relate to your intentions and reaction. 😬😂

  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 9:21 am

    I love this reflection! I have moments where I don’t feel I do enough for my kids and their faith life, especially when I see other moms who have saints galore all around the house, seem to do faith based arts and crafts everyday and have their little ones dressed up as saints in homemade costumes. But, I revel in the fact that my kids won’t go to sleep unless we do our nightly prayers or they will randomly talk about Jesus’ love of them. In those moments, I feel like Christ is consoling me, letting me know that my kids are getting it.

    • Reply
      December 13, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      Yes!! This is my life right now. I used to be the mom who tried to do all the crafts and cute things, but I simply can’t do that and stay sane anymore (in *my* life). The traditions are fun until Mom loses her mind over them and forgets about the Love which is the reason!

  • Reply
    Lisa McAfee
    December 13, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    This is the best as it is so honest and so true !!! Thanks for making me feel better today . I can now focus on the true light instead of perfect parenting . Thank you !

  • Reply
    December 19, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    This is so funny. My son (five years old) thinks that all saints lose their heads like St. Denis. I don’t even know how he learned about St. Denis. He asked me on the 6th if St. Nicholas was killed because bad guys cut off his head or if they cut it off after.

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