St. Lucy of Syracuse

Not much is known for sure about St. Lucy (also known as St. Lucia), but there is plenty of legend around her as one of the saints that the early church venerated greatly.

St. Lucy's Day is always celebrated during Advent, and was originally on the shortest day of the year, a nod to Lucy's name meaning "light", and points ahead to the light of Christ entering the world on Christmas Day.

Lifetime: 283 to 304
Region: Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Patronages: The blind; Martyrs; Throat infections; Writers
Iconograpy: Candle wreath on head; Platter of eyes; Sword; Quill
Feast Day: December 13

Lucy was born to noble parents, her father Roman and her mother Greek, but her father died when she was only five. When Lucy was a little older, her mother contracted a deadly disease, which she suffered from for four years before Lucy heard a liturgy in Catania and the story of St. Agatha of Palermo. 

This liturgy referenced the gospel story of a woman dying of the same disease as Lucy's mother, who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus' cloak. Lucy was inspired, and she encouraged her mother to stay up with her, praying for healing all night at St. Agatha's tomb.

Not only was her mother healed that night, but Lucy also received a vision of St. Agatha, telling her she would be the glory of Syracuse just as Agatha was of Catania.

Lucy had secretly consecrated her virginity to God, but because it was against the law to be Christian at that time, she told no one of her promise, not even her mother. While Lucy's mother was sick, she feared for her daughter's future, and arranged a marriage to a wealthy pagan man so that Lucy could have a secure future. 

However, her mother's healing had changed Lucy. She asked her mother if she could give away much of her wealth to the poor. Her mother thought it was a bad idea, but allowed Lucy to do so when she pressed harder.

This did not go over well with the man who was supposed to marry Lucy. She was giving away the wealth he thought he was going to marry into! And on top of that, now Lucy was saying she wouldn't marry him after all. There could be only one explanation - she was a follower of Christ.

The man turned her in to the governor for the crime of being Christian. However, since he had no proof, the governor gave Lucy the chance to prove her innocence. If she would burn a sacrifice to the emperor, she could be released with no punishment. But Lucy refused, knowing that sacrifices to anyone other than God were wrong - and even God demanded no sacrifice after the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.

The emperor sentenced her to a very bad punishment that would break her vow to God. Lucy only prayed to God to be spared from that horrible shame, and when the guards came to take Lucy away, they found they couldn't lift her, even with several of them pulling together. They tied her to some oxen, and even the oxen, who could haul heavy carts of stone and plow fields couldn't cause Lucy to budge.

So the governor changed her sentence. Instead, he declared that Lucy should be burned to death in a fire. They built up bundles of wood and tied Lucy to a post surrounded by the kindling. They took a torch to the dry wood and the flames leapt up quickly, covering her completely in fire so that none could even see her. The governor was sure this had taken care of the problem, but when the flames died back down, he was angry to see that Lucy was unharmed. Not a hair on her head had been singed, and since her execution was public, many of the people had seen the power of Lucy's faith.

Later stories say that after this, Lucy was imprisoned and tortured. During this imprisonment, Lucy prophesied about how the emperor would soon reign no more, that Christians would not only stop being persecuted, but that the Roman empire would even embrace her religion, and that the governor would be punished for his involvement. This made the governor so angry that he had his guards to gouge out her eyes. 

Finally, his other options spent, the governor executed Lucy by thrusting a sword into her throat, and with this she died. 

Along with many of the other Christian victims under the Roman empire, Lucy's resilience in the face of sure death, and the miracles that protected her, soon led to the end of Christian persecution. Constantine, an emperor soon after Lucy's death, officially legalized Christianity in 313, less than 10 years after Lucy's martyrdom.

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