St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
Feast Day December 13
St. 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. She was honoured at Rome in the sixth century among the most illustrious virgins and martyrs, whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England, till the change of religion, as a holiday of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at Syracuse for many years; but was at length translated into Italy. It is there exposed to public veneration in a rich chapel of St. Vincent’s church. A portion of her relics was carried to Constantinople, and brought thence to Venice, where it is kept with singular veneration
Lucy is often painted with the balls of her eyes laid in a dish: perhaps her eyes were defaced or plucked out, though her present acts make no mention of any such circumstance. From time immemorial this holy virgin and martyr has been invoked by those who suffer from diseases of the eyes.
Impress deeply into your heart three memorable sayings of St. Lucy. The first regards almsgiving before death. This is much more agreeable to the Almighty, and much more useful to you than to give after your death. May you choose what is most agreeable to God and most useful to yourself.
The second is the answer which she gave to Paschasius: ” You obey the command of the Emperor, and
I, the command of God. You fear a mortal man, and I fear the immortal God; Him I must obey.” May you act according to these words. Keep the commandments of the Lord, for He can truly be more useful to you, and harm you more than all mortal men.
The third is comprised in the following words: “Those whose life is chaste, are a temple of the Holy Ghost.” For whom then are the unchaste a dwelling. Surely, for no one else than the spirit of hell. Should not this thought alone awaken in you the greatest horror for the vice of unchastity, and an especial love for the virtue of purity.
Besides these three maxims, consider how miraculously St. Lucy was strengthened and protected by
the power of God, in such a manner that no force could move her from where she stood. Endeavor,
at least, to be immovable in your intention, to live more piously, and to shun sin, especially that sin to
which you are most addicted. In order not to become guilty of it again, you ought to stand as immovable
as a rock in the sea. Let prayer and trust in God be your help, as they were St. Lucy’s. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and immovable,” says St. Paul, (i Cor. XV.)
Source: Lives of the Saints
by Rev. F. X. Weninger D. D., S. J.
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints
by Rev. Alban Butler
Volume XII: December 1866