QUAERITUR: unbleached beeswax candles

From a reader:

My wife recently completed a course on how to make yellow beeswax candles.  My pastor has indicated he would love to receive them as a donation for requiem Masses, funerals, Tenebrae, All Souls, Good Friday, etc. (we have a weekly TLM during the week, but otherwise 100% ordinary form).  These things are ridiculously-cheap to make, so we might just start mass-producing them for the area, and even get the kids involved.

I consulted the GIRM, but there’s no candle rubrics there beyond the fact that there must be at least two at a Mass.

The Catholic Encyclopedia said that yellow beeswax candles are appropriate for the above Masses, and bleached ones for other Masses.  Admixtures of other ingredients are permitted.

I assume the candles should be blessed, ideally at a Candlemas.

Anything else we should know before we start cranking them out?

Keep in mind that the Catholic Encyclopedia online concerns the older way of doing things.  The GIRM has to do with the Novus Ordo.

That said, yellow, as you put it, or “unbleached” beeswax candles are a fine thing for Masses of the Dead, Requiems, etc.   They change the aspect of the Mass, as does the color of vestments (please, Lord, let it be black).   They smell marvelous.

I am all for getting the kids involved.   Some time ago when I visited Norfolk, VA to give a talk and celebrate a High Mass, I was given a pair of unbleached candles which the children of a friend had made.  They were very welcome and I used them for daily Masses of for the Dead.

Don’t forget the candles used for the blessing of throats on St. Blaise day.  Sometimes they are found twisted together in a special shape. There are also the small candles used for processions.   And you might think about some special candles for baptisms.  When I baptize, I suggest that people keep the candle and put a label on it with the occasion, place and name of the priest as well.  They can use that candle, perhaps, for Communion calls in years to come, or even as a candle on the altar at a future wedding or profession.

I don’t know what to add.  I hope you can create a market for the candles, perhaps at Church goods stores.

Keep in mind that there are different sizes of candlesticks.  Some of them are quite large, and go in the large holders along the sides of coffins.  Also, there are different sizes of candle followers.  The size of the follower does make a difference.  Candles burn better with the correct size of follower.  You might want to test your candles with followers.  Also, if they are pure beeswax, you might want to avoid making them very tall and thin.  Many are the large altar candles I have seen which list and are bent from the burden of a summer’s heat.

Perhaps some of the readers here have some experience of making candles for the altar.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. benedetta says:

    I have successfully done beeswax candle making with little ones. It certainly is relatively inexpensive and the children enjoy getting to see the results when actually lit! Sounds like an excellent project.

  2. Andy Lucy says:

    Don’t forget historical reenactors of any period before the Spanish-American War… we use them by the gross. At events, they go for anywhere from $1.50-2.50 per candle, and they always sell out by Saturday afternoon. Depending on your location, you ought to be able to make a tidy sum selling them. Or… you could supply them to vendors who make the event circuit selling wares. You’d make less per candle, but you’d avoid having to go to each event.

    Good luck!

  3. relee54 says:

    Father Z, you said that “unbleached beeswax candles are a fine thing for Masses of the Dead, Requiems, etc.” If I remember correctly from my days as a pre-Vatican II altar boy, weren’t the candles used around the coffin at the traditional Latin Requiem Mass dyed a distinct brownish color? They were definitely a different color than the candles used at a regular Mass.

    Hope you had a chance to enjoy some Bellvue Kriek when you were in England!

  4. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Reading this article reminded me of something from the Canadian SSPX site. The Article was from their Jan 2010 edition of their magazine “Convictions.” on the altar. The link is http://www.sspx.ca/Convictions/2010/CV_21_Liturgy.pdf

    In the article they say “The wax, which must be at least 51% beeswax, represents the body of Christ …” So Fr. Z, is there some lost or old rubric saying this? Where would SSPX get this idea from then?

  5. off2 says:

    per Fortescue, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, 6th ed, 1937, page 8, “The Paschal candle, the two candles at Low Mass, six for High Mass, and the twelve necessary for Exposition and Benediction must have at least 65 per cent of real beeswax.” Others 25%. An attached footnote refers to a decision of the bishops of England and Wales on 4 December 1905, and references S.R.C. 4147. ‘Course that was 105 years ago across the pond.

    relee54, Perhaps you remember unbleached (brown) vs bleached (white).

  6. edm says:

    In the United States the rubrical standard for “beeswax” candles has been 51% for a long time. Furthermore, for the “others” listed above there is no required beeswax content. Also, many persons assume that unbleached candles automatically means that they are 100% or at the very least a higher percentage of beeswax than the regular white wax candles. That is not necessarily true.

    It is a good thing that church candle manufacturers are now again producing unbleached candles. For many years my parish was using stubs from who knows what year. Too bad though that they are being marketed by a major company as “for use during Lent”.

  7. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Thanks for some clarification edm. but do you have a source for the rubric?

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