Saint Lucy – Virgin and Martyr

December 7, 2017

The Pastor's Page

St. Lucy

Saint Lucy Virgin and Martyr

Saint Lucy was born in Syracuse, a city on the island of Sicily, off the coast of Italy, during the Third Century. Her family was upper class Roman nobility. Her parents were Christian. Her father died when she was an infant, so her mother both raised her and trained her in the faith.

Lucy was an extremely devout young woman who made a secret vow, not even revealed to her mother, that she would reserve herself totally to God as a virgin. Unaware, her mother arranged a marriage between her daughter and a young man who was a pagan.

Shortly thereafter, Lucy’s mother became sick with a hemorrhage. Lucy convinced her mother to go to Catania, a town in Italy where the tomb of St. Agatha, a virgin martyr, was located, to ask for a miracle. Both mother and daughter prayed at the tomb through the intercession of St. Agatha, and miraculously, their prayers were answered and her mother’s hemorrhage was cured.

After the healing, Lucy told her mother about her desire to dedicate herself to God, to break off the engagement, and give the money of the dowry to the poor. Her mother agreed, but her fiancé was furious. Out of revenge, he had Lucy arrested, brought to court, and had her charged with being a Christian. Paschasius, the governor of Sicily, demanded that she recant her Christian beliefs, but she flatly refused. As punishment, the governor condemned her to a brothel where she would be violated.

According to the legend, once she arrived at the brothel, she became so heavy that she could not be moved, not even by a group of guards or a team of oxen. Then she was condemned to be burned at the stake, but the flames did not harm her. Finally she was stabbed in the throat, bled profusely, and continued to pray until the moment of her death. She died in Syracuse, Sicily, c. 304 AD, during the persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Her body was initially taken to Constantinople, and later her relics were transferred to Venice, Italy, for final burial.

There are multiple legends about St. Lucy’s eyes. According to one, they were torn out by a mean judge as part of her torture; according to another, a young suitor was enthralled with the beauty of her eyes, and to thwart his admiration and desires, she tore out her eyes, placed them on a tray, and presented them to him; and according to a third, when a rapist attempted to accost her in the brothel, she tore out her eyes to stop the attack. No matter how she lost her eyes, they were miraculously restored, more beautiful than before. In religious art, her symbol is two eyes on a plate.

St. Lucy is the patroness of those afflicted with any sort of eye problem, those with poor vision, eye disease, and the blind, because she had beautiful eyes and her eyes were torn out; of those with throat ailments, because she was stabbed in the throat; of those with hemorrhages and bleeding disorders, because her mother was cured of a hemorrhage and she bled to death; of lamplighters and glassblowers, because her name means light; of the city of Syracuse and the Island of Sicily, because they are where she lived and died; and of gondoliers, because her final burial place is Venice. The gondolier’s song Santa Lucia celebrates her. The Caribbean Island of Santa Lucia was named after her. Sweden holds its festival of light on December 13, her feast day. She is one of only seven female saints named in the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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