The story of St. Lucy, a virgin martyr from Syracuse

On December 13th, the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Churches celebrate the feast day of St. Lucy. Yet, what is Saint Lucy known for? And why is she venerated as the patroness of the blind? Here is the true story of Saint Lucy and other amazing facts we might be interested in.

St. Lucy was a martyr of the Diocletian persecution against Christians, one of the most severe during the Roman Empire. She was born in Syracuse, Sicily, in 283 AD, and was the daughter of a rich nobleman, who died when she was still a child. Lucy grew up with her sickly mother Eutychia, a woman of Greek descent who wasn’t Christian. Nonetheless, she grew up a devout Christian. In her teenage years, she decided to consecrate her virginity to God and to devote her life to the service of the poor. However, ignoring Lucy’s promises, and worried about her daughter’s future, Eutychia arranged her marriage to a young, rich, and pagan man.

Young Lucy, who was renowned for her beauty and her sparkling eyes, refused to marry the man and followed her own spiritual calling. In the end, she persuaded her mother to respect her firm resolution and to let her devote to suffering and needy people. As Lucy’s reputation quickly increased in Syracuse, the emperor Diocletian began the last and worse persecution against Christian of all times. In those sorrowful days, fearless Lucy helped Christians hiding in the dark underground catacombs. She carried food and drink, but also comfort and relief to the persecuted.

Unfortunately, the pagan man to whom Lucy was betrothed heard of her activities, and denounced her to the Roman governor as a Christian. The governor seized this opportunity to demonstrate Rome’s greatness and power. The helpless, but very courageous young girl was arrested, tortured, and humiliated. Though, she valorously resisted to every cruel attempt to annihilate her inner strength. St. Lucy never renounced her faith, nor denied Jesus.

St. Lucy was executed in Syracuse in 304 AD, on December 13th. Her remains rest in the Basilica of St. Lucy in Syracuse, where the beautiful Caravaggio’s painting “Burial of St. Lucy” is housed too. She is one of eight women along with the Blessed Virgin Mary who is commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Food for thought

Candles, and light sources in general, along with the eyes, are the main symbols of St. Lucy’s worship*. In fact, her name (Lucy, Lucia) comes from “lux”, the Latin word for “light”. Therefore, she is worldwide venerated as the patron saint of the blind, and as an example of moral courage, integrity and purity of heart.