Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Lucy's Day: The eyes have it!

St. Lucy (aka St. Lucia) is celebrated today on the Church's calendar. Remembered as a virgin martyr from Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily, Lucy is another one of the seven female saints mentioned by name in the ancient Roman Canon (i.e. Eucharistic Prayer I) during the Mass.

Her name is derived from the Latin word lux, or light. She was martyred for her Christian faith around A.D. 310. According to tradition, her persecutors plucked her eyes out as a torture after she refused to renounce her faith in Christ. Therefore she is often depicted in artwork holding her own eyes on a plate, offering them to God (see the picture above).

Maybe it's just a guy thing, but that makes her statue one of my favorites. I mean, she's holding her own eyes! It should come as no surprise that Lucy is the patron saint of the blind.

Traditional St. Lucy Day procession.
In past centuries, Catholics in northern Europe (namely Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden) associated St. Lucy's Day with being the shortest day of the year. Since her name has connotations of "light," long-standing traditions in this region still preserve a relative "festival of lights" on this day, where a young girl representing St. Lucy marches in a candlelit procession, her head crowned with a wreath of candles. A bit dangerous? Perhaps. But still really cool.

If nothing else, you have to categorize this day as being one full of cool Catholic traditions. Saint statues holding their own eyes, young girls wearing crowns of blazing candles, and all of it piquing our intrigue and calling us to stronger devotion to Christ. It doesn't get much cooler or much more Catholic than that.