Lucy’s name means “light”, with the same root as “lucid” which means “clear, radiant, understandable.” Unfortunately for us, Lucy’s history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.
Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy’s bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl’s vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother’s long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy’s desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.
Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed. As much as the facts of Lucy’s specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian’s reign. Lucy may not have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did and we can be sure her faith withstood tests we can barely imagine.
Lucy’s name is probably also connected to statues of Lucy holding a dish with two eyes on it. This refers to another legend in which Lucy’s eyes were put out by Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy’s eyes.
Lucy’s name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.
Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.
In Her Footsteps:
Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Braille is an important means of communication for those with visual impairment or blindness. Support the teaching of braille in schools and learn about it yourself by calling your local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
Saint Lucy, you did not hide your light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way you did, but we are still called to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Please help us to have the courage to bring our Christianity into our work, our recreation, our relationships, our conversation — every corner of our day. Amen