The stories of Saint Lucy paint a picture of a young girl with unwavering faith and devotion. In Sicily at the time of Emperor Diocletian’s rule Christianity was outlawed and dangerous; yet Lucy devoted her life to Christ at an early age. Most historical accounts agree that Lucy’s mother, Eutychia, arranged a marriage for her daughter with a pagan man. When Lucy refused, or as some believe when St. Agatha healed Eutychia and they jointly broke the engagement, the outraged suitor reported Lucy to the Roman authorities as a Christian.
She was martyred but reports spread of miraculous occurrences surrounding her death, such as becoming immovable or unable to be burned. A common torture of this time was the gouging out of eyes so many pictures represent Lucy as holding her own eyes; this may have dictated her patronage of the blind.
Esteem for Lucy grew as her story spread to Scandinavia where her feast day was celebrated on Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Accounts of Saint Lucy bringing food to the Christians who hid in the catacombs were retold. The image of a young girl laden with food and wearing a crown of candles upon her head took root.
The Scandinavian picture of a girl dressed in white bearing light and treats for her family on the darkest day of the year presents an image I prefer to the Sicilian image of a woman holding eyes on a tray. Though, as I wade through each story and miracle surrounding Saint Lucy, one image holds fast in my mind: light shining through the darkness.
Saint Lucy lived in a time of great discord and trial, especially for Christians. Yet, her faith shone brightly enough to cast out the fear of social constraints, of family discord, and even of martyrdom. From a young age Lucy knew her Savior.
The name Lucy means a great deal to me as it is the name of my oldest daughter. She loves Saint Lucy and has reached the charming age of asking all the questions about everything. Determined to get the story straight, she will persist in asking “but what really happened? What was make-believe and what was real?” I too ask these questions when I study stories of saints.
While I wish I could know the precise account, because I am confident it would be more inspiring and miraculous than we have even pieced together, the snapshots we collect through stories provide us with an inspiring image: a young girl, her devotion to God, and a light that shone through her and spread to all corners of the world. When it comes down to the simple facts, we know that my daughter’s namesake lived up to the meaning of their name and provided light, not only for those in her own generation but for centuries to come. So, as we celebrate the many stories of Saint Lucy, I encourage you to consider the question we ask around our table on December 13th: how are you shining His light?