Welcome to KNOW YOUR SAINTS! a Sunday blog that features a saint whose feast day is celebrated during the following week.
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283 – 303
Feast Day Dec 13th
When the name ‘Lucy’ comes to mind, I always tend to think of a girl that is confident, smart, and honest, sometimes painfully so. Perhaps this is due to the influence of characters in our culture who have held the name ‘Lucy’; Lucy Pevensie of the Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy van Pelt of the Peanuts Gang, Lucy Ricardo of I Love Lucy (Ok, skip the honesty of that one! Her heart was in the right place, usually, though). The Lucy I would like to introduce you to today was no different. She is the embodiment of all the good qualities of the aforementioned Lucies, so much so that she was sainted!
This girl was born in the year 283, in the Roman ruled Syracuse, which is today Sicily. They named her ‘Lucy,’ the Latin word for ‘light’ (lux, lucis), which I like to think was the equivalent of naming her ‘Sunshine.’ Pretty, right? Unfortunately, her father died when she was only an infant, leaving her widowed mother to care for her, and raise her. It seemed that her mother was Christian, or at least pious enough to teach Lucy a bit of Christianity, but as we will soon see, her mother was more concerned with Lucy’s worldly well-being than her spirituality. Lucy, however, was a devout Catholic, and vowed her virginity to the Lord at an early age. She kept this vow a secret, till her mother insisted she marry, having found a suitable suitor who would keep her comfortable for the rest of her life, despite the fact that he was pagan. Lucy managed to stave off her marriage for three years, but her mother (and her suitor) grew more and more impatient, since she suffered from a bleeding disease, and thought Lucy’s vow merely a childish whim. “Who will care for you when I’m gone? How much longer have I got?”
Young Lucy was not to be persuaded, however, and convinced her mother to pray with her at the tomb of St. Agatha. Lucy fell asleep and received a vision, during which her mother was miraculously healed, and agreed to allow Lucy to become a consecrated virgin and to give her dowry away to the poor. This turn of events, however, did not please her jilted suitor, who quickly turned Lucy over to the Roman governor of the island, as Christianity was still outlawed.
I just want to pause here for a moment to reflect, before we continue Lucy’s story. Think about this situation for a minute. Lucy lived during Roman rule. Their culture was not too different from our own, being pleasure-, wealth-, and power-centric. Not only was Christianity outlawed, it was downright subversive to practice, holding up ideals such as austerity, virginity, almsgiving, meekness, humility, etc. These Christians worshiped a man deemed a criminal who was executed by Roman authority. During Lucy’s life, Emperor Diocletian would have none of this, and made many martyrs out of these people.
Now look at Lucy, a girl no older than 20, knowing all of this, living in a culture just like any young girl today. She was not a poor girl living out in the country, or sheltered away from everything. She had a dowry. She had friends. She didn’t go hungry despite losing her father. She had a potential husband who had enough authority to go to the local governor on his own behalf. And yet she chose Christ. She trusted in him, and she stood her ground.
Speaking of which…
Authorities came to take Lucy away, after she was publicly denounced a Christian by this man who was now out a bride and her dowry. It seems she tried to reason with him, claiming to give her virginity to Christ, since he then demanded she be forced into a brothel, and into prostitution. What little regard he had for her vow and her belief! “See how long you stay a ‘virgin’ there!” But, as I said, Lucy stood her ground.
She stood her ground so much that the ground would not let her go! A whole team of oxen hooked to her could not drag her away to the brothel. So they gave up on that idea and decided to just kill her instead, leaving her virginity in tact. Seemingly rooted in place, they piled wood burn her, but the wood would not light. Lucy, God’s light shining through her, began to prophecy and preach to her would-be executioners. Bothered by this, they then gouged out her eyes, beautiful though they were. “How will you see the future now??” She preached on, till finally they cut her throat, at which time God allowed her to die, though some legends say she lived until a priest came to give her last rights and her viaticum, and had her lovely eyes restored before she passed on.
Regardless of how long it took her to die, she died a martyr, and today has a following all over the world, as seen in Swedish, Italian, and even American festivals and traditions dedicated to this young saint, whose name itself means ‘light.’
Dear St. Lucy, pray for us, that the Light of Christ may shine through us this Advent season, though the days may be dark, and those around us try to convince us that the darkness is more pleasant. By your holy martyrdom may we remember that this is not the world we must strive for, but to join you and Christ in heaven. In HIS name we pray. Amen.
A big thanks to Susan McCrady for supplying this week’s icon, showing St. Lucy in a red sash for her martyrdom, and white tunic for her purity, the traditional garb worn by Swedish girls during her festival. Note also the candles giving light, on a wreath, evergreen just as Christ and the Church are everlasting. For more of Susan’s artwork, please visit her website here.
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