Saint Lucy

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Saint Lucy

(virgin and martyr  Memorial - December 13)

Christianity has long used symbolism as aides-mémoire for the transmission of the faith. In the cult of the saints, symbols termed ‘attributes’ give each of the saints something of a personality in sacred art and are reminders of how a saint was martyred, or recall important actions or events from their life. Among the virgin martyrs named in the Canon of the Mass, Lucy is one of two whose ‘attribute’ is as gruesome as it is unsettling. She holds a plate upon which rests her two eyes.

Legend holds that St Lucy blinded in her martyrdom had her sight immediately restored to her by a miracle of God. Lucy is the patron saint of eyesight, blind people and also writers. Indeed she was a very personal patron saint to Dante Alighieri who wrote the Divine Comedy.

The name Lucy means ‘light’. The Gospel for the feast is the Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Maidens (Mt 25:1-13). While the parable’s injunction to stay awake points to the discipline of spiritual vigilance, the parable also reiterates the symbolism of the light of a lamp from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:16) suggesting that our good works are the ‘oil’ to keep our faith burning so that the Lord might recognise us when he returns.

And so, the unsettling image of St Lucy might prove a welcome invitation to take a harder look at ourselves, a call to the profound re-evaluation we must make if we are to see clearly as disciples of Jesus and be seen clearly as Christians.

By Michael McKenna, Director, Office of Liturgy