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St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr of Syracuse

Santa Lucia St. Lucy  (© Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana)

Lucy’s story is told in the Acts of Martyrdom: a collection of traditions, popular tales and legends. Lucy was born at the end of the third century in Syracuse, into a wealthy, high-ranking family. Reared as a Christian, she was still a child when she was orphaned of her father. Her mother, Eutychia, brought her up with love and dedication. While still a girl, Lucy meditated on her dedication to God, but kept her wish in her heart. Not knowing her daughter’s intentions, Eutychia promised her in marriage to a young man, who was not a Christian. Lucy did not reveal her desire to offer her virginity to Christ and, with various pretexts, puts off the wedding, trusting in prayer and divine rescue.

The journey to Catania and the intercession of Sant'Agata

It was in the year 301 that Lucy and her mother went on a pilgrimage to Catania, to the tomb of Saint Agatha. Eutychia suffered from bleeding, and despite various and expensive treatments, nothing had helped her. At the cathedral dedicated to the young martyr, mother and daughter desired to ask for the grace of healing. It was February 5th when they reach the foot of Mount Etna, Agatha’s feast day. They assisted the Eucharistic celebration at the tomb of the saint and “it happened ... that ... in hearing the evangelical episode of the hemorrhagic woman, who had achieved healing by the simple touch of the flap of the Lord’s robe, Lucy turned to her mother, and said: ‘Mother, if you are faithful to the things that have been read, you will also believe that Agatha, who has suffered for Christ, has free and confident access to His tribunal. So trust her tomb, if you wish, and you will be resurrected’ (Passion of Saint Lucy). Eutychia and Lucy then approached the burial place of Agatha. Lucy prayed for her mother and begged for herself to be allowed devote her life to God. Taken as if in a gentle sleep, as she was caught up in ecstasy, and saw Agatha among the angels, proclaiming to her: “Lucy, my sister and Virgin of the Lord, why ask what can you grant me for yourself? Your faith has been of great benefit to your mother, who has already been healed. And as for me, the city of Catania is filled with thanksgiving, so the city of Syracuse will be preserved for you, because our Lord Jesus Christ is pleased that you should keep your virginity intact.” Returned to herself, Lucy referred her vision to her mother, and told her of her desire give up an earthly spouse, asking to be allowed to sell her dowry to make charity to the poor.

Martyrdom

Disappointed and unsatisfied, Lucy’s young suitor denounced Lucy as a Christian to the Prefect, Pascasius, accusing her of worshiping Christ and of disobeying Emperor Diocletian's edict. Arrested by the Prefect, Lucy was interrogated, and refused to sacrifice to the gods. She professed her faith: “I am a servant of the Eternal God and He said: ‘When you are led to the kings and princes do not give thought how or what you have to say because you will not be talking yourself but the Holy Spirit is speaking in you.’” Pascasius pressed her: “Oh, then, do you think you have the Holy Spirit?” Lucy answered: “The Apostle said, ‘The chaste are the temple of God, and the Holy Spirit dwells in them.’” Pascasius, in order to discredit her, then commands that she be brought to the brothel; Lucy declared then that she would not give herself over to the lust of the flesh, and that, despite any violence that would come to be done to her body against her will, she would remain caste, pure and uncontaminated in mind and spirit. Prodigiously immovable, soldiers fail to dislodge her from her place. Tied hands and feet, not even with oxen were they able to drag her away. Exasperated by the extraordinary event, Pascasius disposed that the young virgin be burnt. The fire did not harm her in the least. Furious, Pascasius decided to make her perish by the sword. She was decapitated December 13, 304.