St. Lucy (Died c. 303)

Lucy was born of Sicilian noble parents. As a young woman, she offered her virginity to God, but her mother pressured her to marry a young pagan. Lucy refused. For several years afterward, her mother suffered from an issue of blood. Lucy urged her to visit the tomb of St. Agatha, believing that Agatha might heal her.

At St. Agatha's tomb, Lucy and her mother spent the entire night praying, until they both became so sleepy that they could no longer stay awake. While Lucy slept, Agatha appeared to her and told her that her mother would be healed and that Lucy would suffer martyrdom, but through her sufferings she would become great. “You will soon be the glory of Syracuse,” Agatha told her. Lucy's mother was instantly cured.

Figure 6-4: St. Lucy

Although Lucy's mother allowed her to remain a virgin, Lucy was to experience other pressures. Under Diocletian's persecution, the man Lucy had shunned reported that she was a Christian. As a punishment, she was to be sent to a brothel. But something mysterious happened — the men who tried to move her couldn't. When they tied her to bulls, they were still unable to make her budge. The man responsible for sending her to the brothel became frustrated and said, “How can you, a feeble woman, triumph over a thousand men?” Lucy responded with these strong words: “Bring ten thousand and they won't be able to combat against God!”

At this, a fire was lit, but her body rejected the flames. Finally, she died when a sword was plunged into her. In her last moments, she predicted peace for the church.

Lucy is patron of those with eye diseases, perhaps because of her name, meaning “light.” Some stories have her eyes torn out by her judge, others say she tore them out to offer them to a suitor she did not like. In both incidents they were mysteriously and miraculously restored.

The Festival of Light

Most countries around the world celebrate a “Festival of Light” during the darkest days of the year. In Sweden, this festival is closely linked to their saint of light, Lucy, who is remembered on December 13.

Historically in Sweden, in each village a young woman was selected to wear a white gown with a red sash and a crown of lingonberry branches. Before the light of dawn, “Lucy” would go from farm to farm, a torch in hand, candles in her crown. She would then wake the families at each farm with fresh baked goods.

Is there a connection between “Lucy” and “Lucifer”?

Yes, there is a connection because both names are rooted in the word “light.” St. Lucy is the saint of light, while Satan, otherwise known as Lucifer, is said to disguise himself as an angel of light.

Traditions Today

To this day, in Sweden and Norway, a young girl is chosen to wake each family. She bears a crown of lingonberry branches and electric candles. She carries a platter of hot cardamom buns and coffee. Many homes have their own “Lucy,” most often the youngest girl, who wakes the family with song.

In another ancient Scandinavian tradition, children wrote “Lussi” on doors, gates, and walls on the eve of her feast day. This custom was intended to announce to the winter demons that St. Lucy's Day would break their power — the sun would soon return, the days would become longer and the nights shorter. This tradition was especially poignant before the calendar was reformed in the 1300s, when St. Lucy's feast day fell on the winter solstice.

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