Saints Series: Saint Lucy (aka Saint Lucia)

Saint Lucy (aka Saint Lucia)

Not much is actually known about Saint Lucia’s life. Much of the story of Saint Lucia’s life is speculation and based on the conventional details of other female martyrs of the early fourth century. Traditionally, Lucia of Syracuse (Sicily) was born in 283 AD to wealthy parents in the Syracuse, which was part of the Roman Empire. Her father died when she was five leaving her and her mother without a protective guardian. When she was old enough, as was common for the stories of early martyrs, Lucia consecrated her virginity to God and vowed to give her dowry to the poor. Her mother, unaware of the promise that Lucia had made, arranged for Lucia to marry a young man from a wealthy, pagan family. After Lucia’s mother was miraculously cured of bleeding disorder by saint, Lucia was able to persuade her mother to allow her distribute a large portion of her dowry. When Lucia’s betrothed heard that she was going to distribute her dowry to the poor, he became angry and report her to the Governor of Syracuse for being a Christian. Saint Lucia lived at a time when it was illegal to be a Christian. The Governor sentenced her to death and she was executed by a sword to the neck in 304 AD.

Saint Lucia is usually depicted in icons holding a palm branch, signifying that she was a martyr. She is also depicted holding eyes on a platter as a protector of sight. In Medieval Tradition, her eyes were removed before she was executed, but miraculously grew back when her body was prepared for burial. This is not supported in early texts, but it is how light came to be a part of the symbolism her feast day.

Saint Lucia is one of the most well-known female martyrs and is one of eight women explicitly commemorated by Catholics in the Canon of the Mass, what Lutherans would call the Preface and the Words of Institution. Her feast day is celebrated on December 13th. In the Scandinavian counties, they celebrate her feast day by having young girls dress up in a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. In Sicily, a silver statue of Saint Lucia is paraded around the city before being returned to the Cathedral of Syracuse.

We emulate Saint Lucia by our giving to programs such as Orphan Grain Train and Lutheran World Relief, programs that help the poor.

This is part of a monthly series of newsletter articles written by Intern Bridget.