Today is the feast day of Saint Lucy. Ora pro nobis.
“No one’s body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.” Saint Lucy (9)
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
Saint Lucy, one of the most renowned Christian heroines, first saw the light of the world at Syracuse, in Sicily. Her parents were of high rank and very rich; but Lucy cared not for temporal goods, and had already when quite young, vowed herself to the Lord. As her father had died early, her mother desired that she should marry a youth, her equal in rank and fortune, but still a heathen. Lucy was horrified at this proposal; but not to displease her mother by a refusal, she endeavored to delay giving a decisive answer, praying meanwhile to God to aid her. Her prayer was answered in an unexpected manner. Her mother became sick and needed her daughter’s assistance. Already four years had passed, and there was yet no hope of a recovery, when the mother, persuaded by Lucy, allowed herself to be carried to the tomb of St. Agatha, at Catania, which was celebrated for many miracles. On arriving there, Lucy, after long prayers, was overcome by sleep, in which St. Agatha, accompanied by many Angels, appeared to her and said: “What do you request of me, dear sister? Behold your mother is cured! Your faith has worked this miracle. Know then, that as God, for my sake, made Catania glorious, so will He, for your sake, make Syracuse famous; for, you have prepared for Him an agreeable dwelling by vowing your virginity to Him.”
When Lucy awoke she found her mother, who had been sick so long, entirely restored. Joyfully embracing her, she warmly congratulated her, and after both had given due thanks to the Almighty, they also showed their gratitude to the virgin, St. Agatha. After this, Lucy said to her mother: “I beg of you, dearest mother, speak not to me again of a mortal bridegroom, for I have long since united myself to One who is immortal. I pray you also to give me the portion you would have given me if I had married an earthly bridegroom.” The mother, thinking that her daughter would give all to the poor, replied: “If you will wait till after my death, you will be at liberty to do as you like with your inheritance.” To this Lucy made answer: “What we leave to the poor after our death is not so agreeable to God, nor so useful to us as what we give them during our life-time; just as a torch which is carried after us is not of the same service as one which is carried before.” Moved by these words, the mother promised to accede to all her wishes. Hence, having returned home, she gave Lucy the portion which was due to her, and the holy virgin gave it immediately to the poor.
When the youth who had asked her hand in marriage heard of this, his love was changed into hatred, and he accused her to the Governor, Paschasius, as well for refusing to become his wife, as also for being a Christian and despising the gods. Paschasius called Lucy into his presence, and admonished her to sacrifice to the gods, as well as to keep her promise to the young nobleman. “Neither will be done,” replied the virgin; “I sacrifice only to the true God; to Him have I given my faith; not to any man.” “I obey the command of the Emperor,” replied Paschasius; “you must sacrifice to the gods, and keep your word.” “You obey the command of the Emperor,” said Lucy, “and I obey the command of God. You fear a mortal man, I fear an immortal God, and Him I will obey.” “Your brave words will cease,” said Paschasius, “when your fortitude is tried by tortures.” “No,” said Lucy, “they will not. The servants of the Lord are never in want of words; for Christ has said to them: ‘When you speak to kings and magistrates, do not long consider what and how you say it, for it will be given you what to speak. It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of God speaking through you.'” “Do you pretend to say by this, that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” asked Paschasius. The holy virgin replied: “Those whose life is pure and chaste are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” “I shall take care that you be not much longer such a temple,” said the Governor; “I will send you into a brothel where you will soon be deprived of your purity.” “If my will is not in it,” said the chaste virgin, “my purity will be undefiled, even as you can force me to cast incense on the altar before the gods. God judges not by the violence which is done to the body, but by the will. If you cause such violence to be done to me, my chastity will earn a double crown.”
Paschasius, enraged at these words, commanded her to be taken to a house of iniquity, and there exposed to the wickedness of men. Lucy went forth courageously, full of trust in God, whose aid she implored, into the street; where, suddenly, by the power of the Almighty, she became immovable, so that they could not remove her from the spot notwithstanding all their efforts. They fastened ropes around her, and even yoked several pairs of oxen to them, but all was useless; she stood like a rock and could not be moved. Paschasius ascribed this miracle to witchcraft, and commanded pitch and boiling oil to be poured over her, and set on fire; but she remained unharmed in the midst of the flames. The tyrant could no longer endure to see the fearlessness of the Christian heroine, much less listen to the admonitions which she gave to those around her to forsake idolatry; hence he commanded that a sword should be thrust into her throat to end her life. Sinking to the ground, the Saint closed her eyes in death, and received the crown of martyrdom, in the year of our Lord, 303.
The prophecy that the persecution of the Christians would soon cease, with which she had comforted the faithful shortly before her end, became true. Her holy body was buried at Syracuse. From time immemorial this holy virgin and martyr has been invoked by those who suffer from diseases of the eyes. (1)
From THE LITURGICAL YEAR, Dom Guéranger OSB, Book I
THERE comes to us, today, the fourth of our wise virgins, the valiant Martyr, Lucy. Her glorious name shines on the sacred diptych of the Canon of the Mass, together with those of Agatha, Agnes, and Cecily [Cecilia]; and as often as we hear it pronounced during these days of Advent, it reminds us (for Lucy signifies light) that He who consoles the Church, by enlightening her children, is soon to be with us. Lucy is one of the three glories of the Church of Sicily; as Catania is immortalized by Agatha, and Palermo by Rosalia, so is Syracuse by Lucy. Therefore, let us devoutly keep her Feast: she will aid us by her prayers during this holy season, and will repay our love by obtaining for us a warmer love of that Jesus, Whose grace enabled her to conquer the world. Once more let us consider, why our Lord has not only given us Apostles, Martyrs, and bishops as guides to us on our road to Bethlehem, but has willed also that we should be accompanied thither by such virgins as Lucy. The children of the Church are forcibly reminded by this, that, in approaching the crib of their sovereign Lord and God, they must bring with them, besides their faith, that purity of mind and body without which no one can come near to God. Let us now read the glorious acts of the virgin Lucy.
Lucy, a virgin of Syracuse, illustrious by birth and by the Christian faith, which she had professed from her infancy, went to Catania, with her mother Eutychia, who was suffering from a flux of blood, there to venerate the body of the blessed Agatha. Having prayed fervently at the tomb, she obtained her mother’s cure, by the intercession of St. Agatha. Lucy then asked her mother that she would permit her to bestow upon the poor of Christ the fortune which she intended to leave her. No sooner, therefore, had she returned to Syracuse, than she sold all that was given to her and distributed the money amongst the poor.
When he, to whom her parents had against her will promised her in marriage, came to know what Lucy had done, he went before the prefect Paschasius and accused her of being a Christian. Paschasius entreated and threatened, but could not induce her to worship the idols; nay, the more he strove to shake her faith, the more inflamed were the praises which she uttered in professing its excellence. He said, therefore, to her: We shall have no more of thy words, when thou feelest the blows of my executioners. To this the virgin replied: Words can never be wanting to God’s servants, for Christ our Lord has said to them:
When you shall be brought before kings and governors, take no thought how or what to speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the holy Spirit that speaketh in you. Paschasius then asked her:
Is the holy Spirit in thee? She answered: They who live chastely and piously, are the temple of the holy Spirit. He said: I will order thee to be taken to a brothel, that this holy Spirit may leave thee. The virgin said to him: The violence wherewith thou threatenest me would obtain for me a double crown of chastity. Whereupon Paschasius being exceedingly angry, ordered Lucy to be dragged to a place where her treasure might be violated; but, by the power of God, so firmly was she fixed to the place where she stood, that it was impossible to move her. Wherefore the prefect ordered her to be covered over with pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and a fire to be kindled round her. But seeing that the flame was not permitted to hurt her, they tormented her in many cruel ways, and at length ran a sword through her neck. Thus wounded, Lucy foretold the peace of the Church, which would come after the death of Diocletian and Maximian, and then died. It was the Ides of December (Dec. 13). Her body was buried at Syracuse, but was translated thence first to Constantinople, and afterwards to Venice. (3)
With regard to her relics, Sigebert (1030-1112), a monk of Gembloux, in his “sermo de Sancta Lucia”, says that he body lay undisturbed in Sicily for 400 years, before Faroald, Duke of Spoleto, captured the island and transferred the saint’s body to Corfinium in Italy. Thence it was removed by the Emperor Otho I, 972, to Metz and deposited in the church of St. Vincent. And it was from this shrine that an arm of the saint was taken to the monastery of Luitburg in the Diocese of Spires–an incident celebrated by Sigebert himself in verse. The subsequent history of the relics is not clear. On their capture of Constantinople in 1204, the French found some of the relics in that city, and the Doge of Venice secured them for the monastery of St. George at Venice. In the year 1513 the Venetians presented to Louis XII of France the head of the saint, which he deposited in the cathedral church of Bourges. Another account, however, states that the head was brought to Bourges from Rome whither it had been transferred during the time when the relics rested in Corfinium. (6)
Image: Saint Lucy, artist: Francesco del Cossa, circa 1470 (12)
Research by REGINA Staff