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Saint Lucy and the Lights

Just about 250 years after Jesus died, rose, and ascended into Heaven, a beautiful little girl was born a woman of Greek descent and a wealthy Roman nobleman. They brought their daughter up in the Christian faith. Just 50 years before, the Roman Empire was persecuting and martyring Christians for their beliefs. But, at the time of her birth, the persecutions had quieted, though Christians were still often looked upon with suspicion.

Lucy’s father died when she was just 5 years old. This great loss drew her closer to her Heavenly Father. Lucy was a lovely and pious girl. She loved Jesus very much. It was her desire to live for Him alone. Thus, she promised Jesus to live a chaste life as a holy virgin, loving Him through the poor. The dowry that her father had left her to provide for her future, she wished to use to help those in need.

When the Emperor Diocletian came to power, he began persecuted the Christians again. Some went into hiding in the catacombs. Lucy would bring them food at night. In order to be able to carry more provisions, Lucy would wear a wreath on her head. When she entered the catacombs, she would light the candles on her wreath to be able to find her way through the tunnels to the Christians awaiting her.

Lucy’s plans to remain a virgin as the service of the Church became endangered when her mother got severely sick with a bleeding disorder. When no treatment worked, Lucy’s mother arranged a marriage to a young Roman nobleman. Lucy, then, shared her plans with her mother.

The young maiden urged her mom to take a pilgrimage with her to St. Agatha’s shrine. A young virgin martyr from the previous persecution, Agatha was already reported to obtain many miracles for the faithful from God. If St. Agatha cured her mother, then Lucy would not need to get married. Her mother consented.

On their way to the shrine, St. Agatha appeared to Lucy. She promised that her mother’s health would return; moreover, Lucy, herself, would attain the glory of a virgin for Christ.

As promised by St. Agatha, Lucy’s mother got well soon after their return home. The rejected suitor, however, was not happy. He turned Lucy in to the governor as a suspected Christian.

When Lucy would not burn a sacrifice before an icon of the emperor, she was order to a brothel where her purity would be ruined, since she declared herself to be a bride of Jesus Christ. Yet, when the soldiers went to grab her to force her to go, she could not be budged. The young lady could not be overtaken by the large soldiers!

So, the governor ordered her to be burned as a sacrifice. Try as they might, the soldiers could not ignite a fire upon the wood that surrounded her.

Finally, to be done with her, a soldier killed her by piercing her neck with his sword. Lucy was united with her Bridegroom.

At some point during her tortures, Lucy’s eyes were gorged. Coming down to us by oral tradition, it is not clear whether a soldier plucked her eyes out, or if Lucy did it herself so as not to look upon the sins of impurity she may have been exposed to in the brothel. What is clear, though, is that upon her death, God replaced her beautiful eyes - a sign that she was looking upon the Face of God Himself. Thus, St. Lucy is the patron of the blind and those who suffer because of their sight.

Lucy, whose name means light, brings hope to us during these cold and dark days. Before the reform to the calendar, St. Lucy’s feast day, December 13, actually fell on the winter solstice. Lucy’s feast day reminds us that God has an order and plan for all that happens in this world. He even can bring light and joy to us in our darkest moments. Out of the great darkness, He sheds His marvelous light.

Maybe, like many things during this time of year, St. Lucy’s feast day sneaked up on you. You didn’t make saffron bread or cinnamon buns for your family this morning (St. Lucy is credited with saving the Swedish people from famine in the Middle Ages when a ship full of sweet bread docked in their harbor). Perhaps, your oldest daughter thinks she is too old to don a white dress with a red sash and deliver hot cocoa to her siblings while they lay in bed. Maybe this just happens in my house?

We can still celebrate St. Lucy’s feast day in a special way, though, that does not require much planning at all! This evening, after dinner, make some hot chocolate and pour it into to-go cups or travel mugs. Then, give one to each of your children, pile them into your minivan, and drive around the neighborhoods in your area to see the lights. Play Christmas music. But at some point, turn the music down. Tell your children the story of St. Lucy and remind them that Jesus is the true Light of the world.

May the lights that decorate our houses always be a sign of that truth!


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