Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Saint Lucy - 283–304

I find the lives of saints and holy people utterly fascinating and although some of the sceptics love to pour cold water on some of the more miraculous aspects of their lives I believe that Jesus' promise that his disciples and followers will do "greater works than these" (John 14:12) i.e. the ones Jesus did, is true. Of course there may well have been some exaggeration in the retelling, but there must have been something to exaggerate in the first place.

Anyhow, here is a short talk I gave as the Church remembered Lucy and her faithful witness:

"Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. All we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.

Maybe because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, various legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, according to the legend, the rejected bridegroom was unhappy at losing his dowry and his wife and betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her difficult to carry away as she became very stiff and heavy. Finally she was killed – one legend has it that her eyes were put out (she is the patron saint of blind people).

As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Although the exact facts are unknown Lucy – along with many other Christians – faced the ultimate test of faith.

A few comments:
1. Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.

2. Lucy was keen to share her faith with others and set out to convince her mother of the reality of Christ. Her belief in the power of God saw her prayer of faith answered and, as we see in the life of Jesus, the Gospel message was confirmed by “signs and wonders”.

3. Lastly, Lucy’s ‘light’ - that is her faith - shone in dark and difficult times helping keep the light of Christ burning. As the most recent census tells us, the numbers of those who are willing to call themselves Christian have dropped from 71% to 59% over just a decade. We need to follow the example of Lucy and keep shining for Jesus.

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