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Feast Day: December 13
Patron of: the blind
Keywords: light, clarity, the blind, eye disease, dysentery, epidemics, cutlers, electricians, glaziers, gondoliers, oculists, peasants, writers, vision
Quote: “Those whose hearts are pure are the temples of the Holy Spirit.”
Symbols: holding her eyes on a dish, martyrs palms, sword, oxen
Willing to give up the comforts of her privileged life in order to obtain a state of enlightenment, Saint Lucy is one of the early virgin martyrs who challenged the authority of the Roman state. Her very name means ‘light’ and as light is direct and clear, shining in the most filthy of environments, we invoke her for clarity of vision in the spiritual as well as the physical realm.
Born in Syracuse, Sicily to a wealthy family of Greek descent, Lucy’s father died when she was very young. Following the traditions of their society, Lucy had a large dowry and was affianced in an arranged marriage to a pagan nobleman. Lucy was a Christian and believed that she could best be a conduit of the Holy Spirit by remaining a virgin unfettered by husband and children. At this time Christianity was a great threat to the Roman Empire and the emperor Diocletian vowed to stamp it out wherever it arose. Lucy kept her vow a secret as Christians were considered revolutionaries against the state. Since her mother suffered from constant bleeding from a uterine hemorrhage, Lucy took her to the tomb of Saint Agatha in Catania, a place where many miracles were reported, for a healing. While spending the night there, Lucy dreamt of Saint Agatha who told her, “You have no need to invoke me, for your faith has already cured your mother. One day you will be known as the patron of your own city.” Upon awakening and finding her mother completely healed, Lucy confessed to her desire to remain a virgin and distribute her dowry among the poor. Impressed by her faith, her mother acquiesced to her daughter’s wishes.
When her fiancé heard of the broken engagement he went to the governor to denounce Lucy as a Christian. In an attempt to change her mind, she was brought before the authorities. When she asked why was it so important that this man need to marry her, she was told because she had the loveliest eyes. Whereupon Lucy ripped out her eyeballs and told the governor to send them to her former fiancé. The next day her eyesight was miraculously restored and Lucy was once again brought before the authorities. An attempt was made to have her taken to a brothel to be repeatedly raped, but a phalanx of soldiers could not move her. A team of oxen was brought in to no avail. Burning pitch was poured on her head, but she stood fast, predicting the downfall of the emperor. This last declaration proved to be too much and Lucy was fatally stabbed in the throat. True to her prophecy Diocletian the emperor abdicated his throne within the year.
It is said that “the longest of nights and shortest of days belong to Saint Lucy.” Because her feast day, December 13 used to be the winter solstice before the change to the Gregorian calendar, Lucy enjoys great patronage in Scandanavia as the saint who brings the coming of the light. Her relics were moved to Venice where she is celebrated in song by gondoliers. In Sicily she is credited with ending an epidemic of children’s deaths in the 14th century, today she is synonymous with Santa Claus, where children receive gifts on her feast day. When there was a famine in her native land during the 16th century, ships laden with raw wheat turned up on her feast day. The starving inhabitants cooked the wheat whole, and today it is customary to cook with raw wheat on her feast day.
Explanation of symbols:
Eyes on a dish: Lucy ripped out her own eyes and offered them to her fiancée when she was told he loved her for her beautiful eyes. She was not in need of her mortal eyes as she was filled with light.
Palms: Symbol of martyrdom.
Novena to Saint Lucy
Saint Lucy, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing as much as the blindness and darkness of evil and sin. By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God’s great honor and glory and the salvation of all men. Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. (Mention your request here.)