It is always inspiring to read the lives of the Saints, but never more so when reading of the martyrs and especially those early church martyrs who were so valiant against such terrible persecution. And never more impressive are the examples given by the glorious virgin martyrs, and in particular those who have been enshrined in the Canon of Holy Mass. We find it said best in Sacred Scripture:
“Who shall find a valiant woman? far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her.” (Prov. 31:10)
Indeed! And Saint Lucy along with Saint Cecilia who we celebrated last month is indeed one of these valiant women who is the great treasure of her homeland and for all Christians. Let us ask this great Saint for help in these our own days which are filled with such evil that we may stand steadfast as she did against all the wiles of the devil and his followers.
The Victories of the Martyrs
Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri
St. Lucy, Virgin
St. Lucy was descended of a noble family of Syracuse, which was then regarded as the principal city of Sicily. She lost her father in her infancy; but Eutychia, her mother, took care to educate her properly, and to instruct her well in the doctrines of our holy faith. When our saint arrived at a proper age, her mother began to think of giving her in marriage, but Lucy, who had consecrated her virginity to Jesus Christ, awaited only a favorable opportunity to reveal her resolution to her mother.
This opportunity soon presented itself. Eutychia was afflicted for many years with a flux of blood, without being able to find any effectual remedy. St. Lucy, therefore, persuaded her to repair to the tomb of St. Agatha, martyred a half century before in Catania, where the Lord was pleased to work man)- miracles, and there to implore her cure. When they arrived at Catania, they prostrated themselves in prayer before the sepulchre of St. Agatha, where Lucy, perhaps from fatigue of the journey, was overpowered with sleep. The blessed martyr appeared to her, and as we read in the Roman Breviary, said: “Lucy! why dost thou demand through my intercession that which, by thy faith, thou canst thyself obtain for thy mother ?” She then assured Lucy that God would work the desired cure, and that, for having preserved her virginity inviolate, God would reward her in Syracuse with the same glory she herself had received in Catania.
Lucy, animated by this vision, was the more confirmed in her resolution of remaining always consecrated to Jesus Christ, and told her mother to speak to her no more of marriage, but to distribute her fortune among the poor. Eutychia answered, that at her death she would bequeath all to her, and that she might do with it as she pleased; but Lucy replied, that gratitude for her miraculous cure ought to induce her willingly to deprive herself during life of that which, at her death, she should necessarily leave behind her.
The mother consented, and when they returned to Syracuse, they commenced to sell their property, and to distribute the proceeds among the poor. Lucy’s suitor perceiving this, complained to Eutychia; but he found that his representations were totally ineffectual, and, in his rage, accused her before the governor, Paschasius, as being a Christian, contrary to the edicts of Diocletian and Maximian. The saint was accordingly arrested and brought before the governor, who endeavored to persuade her to sacrifice to the idols; but Lucy replied, that the sacrifice most agreeable to God was the relief of the poor, in which she was actually engaged and that she was prepared to sacrifice even her life.
Paschasius replied, that she ought to obey the emperor, as he did; but the saint answered: “Day and night I meditate upon the divine law; and if thou art anxious to please the emperor, I am anxious to please my God; therefore it is that I have consecrated to him my virginity.” Paschasius in his rage told her that she was impurity itself. The saint replied: “No, thou art impurity, since thou dost endeavor to corrupt Christian souls, alienating them from God, to serve the devil, wrongly preferring, as thou dost, the goods of this world to those of heaven.” Paschasius: “Torments shall stop thy mouth.” Lucy: “Words shall never be wanting to the servants of God, since the Lord hath promised that the Holy Ghost shall speak through them.” (Matt. 10:20) Paschasius: “Then the Holy Ghost is within thee?” Lucy: “St. Paul hath said, that those who live chastely and piously are the temples of the Holy Ghost.” (Cor. 5:16-6:19) “Since
this is the case,” said the tyrant, “ I will cause thee to be brought to an infamous place, in order that the Holy Ghost may leave thee.” The saint replied: “The body receiveth no stain when the will is averse to sin; on the contrary, the violence you meditate would double my crown.”
The governor then threatened the most horrid tortures, in case she continued obstinate. The saint intrepidly exclaimed: Behold my body ready to suffer every torture! why dost thou delay? Begin the execution of that to which the devil, thy father, prompts thee.” Paschasius, maddened with rage, ordered that she should instantly be brought to the place of infamy, in order that she might first lose the honor of virginity, and then be deprived of life.
The guards endeavored to execute this command, but found that God had rendered her so immovable, that all their exertions were insufficient to drag her from the spot. Paschasius in astonishment exclaimed: “What incantation is this?” The saint replied: “This is not an incantation, but the power of God. Why dost thou fatigue thyself? Dost thou not manifestly perceive that I am the temple of the Lord ?”
Paschasius, more confused and infuriated than ever, ordered a great fire to be kindled round the saint that she might be burned; but Lucy, nothing daunted, said to the tyrant: “ I will pray to the Lord Jesus that the fire may not injure me, in order that the faithful may witness the divine power, and that the infidels may be confused.” The friends of Paschasius, unwilling that the people should witness any further miracle, advised him to have her beheaded; but after having been tortured in many other ways, her throat was pierced with the point of a sword. (See the Breviary and the martyrology) The saint did not expire immediately; she threw herself on her knees, offered her death to God; and having foretold that peace would soon be restored to the Church, consummated her martyrdom, in the year 303 or 304. Her name is inserted in
the Canon of the Mass.
[After the persecution there were built at Syracuse, in honor of St. Lucy, two churches, of which one was in the city where her body was buried, and the other outside of the city, in the place where she was martyred. One of her arms was afterwards taken to Constantinople, and thence to Venice. In the eighth century, the Duke of Spoleto, having made himself master of Sicily, had the relics of the saint taken away to enrich therewith the city of Corsino, in his duchy; and in 970, Thierry, Bishop of Metz, having come to Italy with the Emperor Otto I., obtained this great treasure for the church of St. Vincent at Metz, where he had it deposited in a sumptuous chapel. The second arm was given in 1042 to the abbey of Liutburg. The precious relics of the saint having fortunately escaped the sacrilegious fury of the revolutionists, repose at present in the Church of Ottange (Moselle). They have been everywhere, and are even now, venerated with the greatest devotion. (See Giry, Paris, 1860.) ED.]
The Liturgical Year
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
Volume I – Advent
Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
There comes to us, to-day, the fourth of our wise virgins, the valiant martyr, Lucy. Her glorious name shines on the sacred diptych of the Canon of the Mass, together with those of Agatha, Agnes, and Cecily ; and as often as we hear it pronounced during these days of Advent, it reminds us (for Lucy signifies light) that He who consoles the Church, by enlightening her children, is soon to be with us. Lucy is one of the three glories of the Church of Sicily; as Catania is immortalized by Agatha, and Palermo by Rosalie, so is Syracuse by Lucy. Therefore, let us devoutly keep her feast: she will aid us by her prayers during this holy season, and will repay our love by obtaining for us a warmer love of that Jesus, whose grace enabled her to conquer the world. Once more let us consider, why our Lord has not only given us apostles, martyrs, and bishops as guides to us on our road to Bethlehem, but has willed also that we should be accompanied thither by such virgins as Lucy. The children of the Church are forcibly reminded by this, that, in approaching the crib of their sovereign Lord and God, they must bring with them, besides their faith, that purity of mind and body without which no one can come near to God.
Let us now read the glorious acts of the virgin Lucy.
Lucy, a virgin of Syracuse, illustrious by birth and by the Christian faith, which she had professed from her infancy, went to Catania, with her mother Eutychia, who was suffering from a flux of blood, there to venerate the body of the blessed Agatha. Having prayed fervently at the tomb, she obtained her mother’s cure, by the intercession of St. Agatha. Lucy then asked her mother that she would permit her to bestow upon the poor of Christ the fortune which she intended to leave her. No sooner, therefore, had she returned to Syracuse, than she sold all that was given to her and distributed the money amongst the poor.
When he, to whom her parents had against her will promised her in marriage, came to know what Lucy had done, he went before the prefect Paschasius and accused her of being a Christian. Paschasius entreated and threatened, but could not induce her to worship the idols ; nay, the more he strove to shake her faith, the more inflamed were the praises which she uttered in professing its excellence. He said therefore, to her: We shall have no more of thy words, when thou feelest the blows of my executioners. To this the virgin replied: Words can never be wanting to God’s servants, for Christ our Lord has said to them: When you shall be brought before kings and governors, take no thought how or what to speak ; for it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak; for it is not you that speak, but the holy Spirit that speaketh in you. Paschasius then asked her: Is the holy Spirit in thee? She answered: They who live chastely and piously, are the temple of the holy Spirit. He said: I will order thee to be taken to a brothel, that this holy Spirit may leave thee. The virgin said to him: The violence wherewith thou threatenest me would obtain for me a double crown of chastity. Whereupon Paschasius being exceedingly angry, ordered Lucy to be dragged to a place where her treasure might be violated; but, by the power of God, so firmly was she fixed to the place where she stood, that it was impossible to move her. Wherefore the prefect ordered her to be covered over with pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and a fire to be kindled round her. But seeing that the flame was not permitted to hurt her, they tormented her in many cruel ways, and at length ran a sword through her neck. Thus wounded, Lucy foretold the peace of the Church, which would come after the death of Diocletian and Maximian, and then died. It was the Ides of December (Dec. 13). Her body was buried at Syracuse, but was translated thence first to Constantinople, and afterwards to Venice.
We here give some of the antiphons which occur in the Office of the saint: they form a lyric poem of great beauty.
Orante Sancta Lucia, apparuit ei beata Agatha, et consolabatur ancillam Christi.
Lucia virgo, quid a me petis, quod ipsa poteris praestare continuo matri tuae?
Per te, Lucia virgo, civitas Syracusana decorabitur a Domino Jesu Christo.
Benedico te, Pater Domini mei Jesu Christi, quia per Filium tuum ignis extinctus est a latere meo.
In tua patientia possedisti animam tuam, Lucia, sponsa Christi: odisti quss in mundo sunt, et coruscas cum angelis: sanguine proprio inimicum vicisti.
As Lucy was praying, there appeared unto her the blessed Agatha, and she comforted the handmaid of Christ.
O virgin Lucy! why askest thou of me, what thyself canst straightway grant unto thy mother?
Because of thee, O virgin Lucy! the city of Syracuse shall be honoured by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Words of Lucy: I bless thee, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because by thy Son the fire around me was quenched.
In thy patience thou didst possess thy soul, O Lucy, bride of Christ! thpu didst hate the things that are in the world, and thou shinest among the angels. Thou didst conquer the enemy by thine own blood.
We present ourselves before thee, O virgin martyr, beseeching thee to obtain for us that we may recognize in His lowliness that same Jesus whom thou now seest in His glory. Take us under thy powerful patronage. Thy name signifies light; guide us through the dark night of this life. 0 fair light of virginity! enlighten us; evil concupiscence has wounded our eyes : pray for us, 0 thou bright light of virginity! that our blindness be healed, and that rising above created things, we may be able to see that true light, which shineth in darkness, but which darkness cannot comprehend. Pray for us, that our eye may be purified, and may see, in the Child who is to be born at Bethlehem, the new Man, the second Adam, the model on which the life of our regeneration must be formed. Pray too, O holy virgin, for the Church of Rome and for all those which adopt her form of the holy Sacrifice; for they daily pronounce at the altar of God thy sweet name ; and the Lamb, who is present, loves to hear it. Heap thy choicest blessings on the fair Isle, which was thy native land, and where grew the palm of thy martyrdom. May thy intercession secure to her inhabitants firmness of faith, purity of morals, and temporal prosperity, and deliver them from the disorders which threaten her with destruction.