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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of
St. Lucy

Born in A.D. 283, St. Lucy (Santa Lucia) was a young Sicilian girl who vowed to live as a virgin in devotion to Christ. Her mother, however, arranged a marriage for her to a pagan suitor. To dissuade her mom by proof of a miracle, Lucy prayed at the tomb of St. Agatha -- who was martyred a little over 50 years earlier -- that her mother's hemorrhage would stop. When the miracle happened, her mother agreed to leave aside the topic of marriage.

Lucy's suitor, however, had other plans, and revealed Lucy as a Christian. Authorities went to collect her, planning on forcing her into prostitution -- but they were unable to budge her, even after tying her to a team of oxen. She was then tortured by having her eyes torn out. They'd planned on torturing her by fire, too, but the fires kept going out. She was then killed by being stabbed in the throat with a dagger.

Because of the above, St. Lucy is the patron Saint of Syracuse, Perugia, Malta, and, especially, those with eye problems. She is often depicted carrying her eyes (often on a plate), being tied to a team of oxen, with St. Agatha, or before her judges.

Her relics lay in Syracuse for hundreds of years, and some were translated to Constantinople, and then to Venice where they may be venerated at the Church of San Geremia. Her head was sent to Louis XII of France, and reposes in the cathedral of Bourges.


Some may prepare for this feast by praying the Novena to St. Lucy starting on December 4 and ending on December 12, the eve of her feast.

As for the feast itself, here is a traditional prayer for the day:

O Saint, named from the light, full of confidence we present ourselves before thee, to ask of thee a holy light, which may render us cautious in avoiding the ways of sin and escaping the darkness of error. We beg also, through thy intercession, for the preservation of the light of our eyes, together with abundant grace to use it always in accordance with the will of God and without injury to our souls. Grant, O
blessed Lucy, that, after venerating and thanking thee for thy powerful patronage on earth, we may come at last to rejoice with thee in the paradise of the eternal light of the divine Lamb, thy sweet spouse Jesus. Amen.

As the prayer indicates, our Saint's name, "Lucia," means "Light," and light plays a role in the customs of the day. In Syracuse, Sicily, torchlit processions and bonfires mark this feast. Sixty men wearing green berets bear her large, silver reliquary statue, and her icon is carried to Porta Marina, where sailors greet her, sounding the sirens on their ships. A cooked wheat porridge known as cuccia is eaten because, during a famine, the people of Syracuse invoked St. Lucy, who interceded by sending a ship laden with grain (much as St. Joseph also did for the people of Sicily). Cuccia can be made so that it's savory or sweet. Here is a sweet version:

2 cups dried wheatberries
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups ricotta cheese
4 TBSP sugar or 2 TBSP honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
Ground cinnamon
Optional: chopped walnuts or pistachios; shaved dark chocolate (or chocolate chips); candied fruit (candied orange peel is popular); chopped dried figs

Two days before, soak the wheatberries in a big pot and let sit for 24 hours. Then rinse, cover again with water, and soak for another 24 hours.

On St. Lucy's day, rinse the wheat once again, put it back into the pot, and cover with water by 3 inches. Add the salt, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until the wheat is tender (about an hour or so). Run cold water over the wheat until it's chilled, then drain really well, letting it sit in a strainer over a bowl for 5 minutes or so.

Whisk together the ricotta, sugar (or honey), and vanilla until it's creamy and smooth. Fold it into the wheat. Garnish with cinnamon. Top with whatever configuration of optional ingredients you like.

In some parts of Italy, especially in the north, Lucia is said to wander the streets with her little donkey, bearing candies and gifts for children to find the next morning. Adults will ring bells in the street to let everyone know she is coming and, so it's time for children to go to bed. A little poem for the children:

Zitti, zitti fate piano
vien la Santa da lontano,
porta a tutti dolci e doni
soprattutto ai bimbi buoni.

Ma se un bimbo cattivello,
oltre tutto un po' monello,
nulla trova nel tinello.

Quindi bimbi birichini
diventate un po' bravini,
e i cuoricini tutti spenti
con la Santa si fan contenti.

Grazie, grazie Santa Lucia,
il tuo incanto mi porti via.
Hush, hush, be quiet
the Saint comes from afar,
bringing sweets and gifts to everyone
especially good children.

But if a child is naughty,
over all a bit of a brat,
he finds nothing in the dining room.

So naughty children
become good little children,
and, with little hearts at rest
with the Saint, happy.

Thank you, thank you Saint Lucia,
your charm takes me away.

In Verona, Italy, a barefoot pilgrimage to the church there named in her honor is traditional, and children place an empty plate on the table that will be filled with sweets by the time they wake up. And in the city's Piazza Bra, a great Santa Lucia market is held. The treat eaten in Verona on this day are type of shortbread called the puoti de Santa Lucia, which come with a legend: Mothers tell their children that the puoti recipe comes from Santa Lucia herself, who came to Verona many, many years ago, on December 12, disguised as an old woman. She went to the house of a family too poor to give their children toys or sweets, and she showed the mother how to make puoti. The mother knew the recipe was "magical" because when "the old woman" went to the canister get flour, she took out handsful even though the mother had no flour. The mother didn't have eggs, either, but the woman pretended to crack a few, and yolks appeared. The mother didn't have milk, but the woman changed water into milk, and then she took a stick of butter from an empty pot. She shaped the dough into the shapes of a child, and when the puoti were baked, she took some snow from outside and turned it into icing. Then the cookie "magically" multiplied into dozens, so the entire family could enjoy them.

Puoti di Santa Lucia

2 cups flour all-purpose
1/2 cup + 1/8 cup butter chopped in small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp sugar powdered, to decorate

Sift the flour and shape it into a mountain. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or potato masher (so the butter doesn't get warm) until you get a crumbly mixture. Add the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt to make a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and put in the refrigerator and for 1 hour. Heat oven to 325F. Roll the dough to about 1/4 thickness and cut into small gingerbread man shapes (or other Christmasy shapes). Bake on a parchment-lined sheet for about 15 minutes. When cool, sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar.

In Altomonte, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy, bagpipers are heard while competitions are held to build the best bonfires.The poor are given le Nove Cose di Santa Lucia (Nine Things of St. Lucy), which includes dried figs and grain (elsewhere in the same province, it is thirteen things that are given to those in need).

To the upper East in Puglia, cookies called "St. Lucia's Eyes" are eaten:

Occhi di Santa Lucia

1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1 pound powdered sugar
a few TBSP to 3/4 cup water (read through recipe)

Mix together the wine and oil. Add the flour and mix until you have a firm dough. Knead for about 15 minutes. Take bits of the dough and roll into strips that are about 1/4" thick. Cut each strip into 1-inch strips, then form the 1-inch pieces into circles, squeezing the two ends together. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes.

When it comes time to ice them you have two options:

A) a crackly-looking icing: Mix the powdered sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring all the while. After about 5 minutes, take off the heat, dip the cookies to coat them. Put them on a board to dry and let them sit for several hours until the glaze is dry and white.

B) a thicker icing just on the top: Mix the powdered sugar with just enough water to make a thick icing. Dip just the tops of the cookies in, and set aside to let dry.

Some of the loveliest St. Lucy's Day customs are Swedish: in Sweden, the oldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy's Day and dress in a white gown for purity, often with a red sash as a sign of martyrdom. On her head she will wear a wreath of greenery and lit candles, and she is often accompanied by "starboys," her small brothers who are dressed in white gowns and cone-shaped hats that are decorated with gold stars, and carrying star-tipped wands. "St. Lucy" will go around her house and wake up her family to serve them special St. Lucy Day foods, such as saffron buns and Lussekatter (St. Lucy's Cats), shaped into X's, figure-8s, S-shapes, or crowns.

Lussekatter (makes 10-12 buns)

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
8 ounces (1 cup) milk
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 beaten egg white for egg wash
a handful of raisins, optional

Using a mortar and pestle, pound saffron threads to break down strands. In a small saucepan, heat milk to lukewarm.

Mix yeast with 1/4 cup milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside.

On low heat, melt butter in saucepan with milk. Add crushed saffron. Let cool.

In large bowl, mix together flour salt and remaining sugar.

Stir yeast into cooled milk mixture. Mix into dry ingredients, beating to mix well. Add beaten eggs. Knead in bowl for 5 - 7 minutes. Turn onto floured board and knead another 7 - 8 minutes.

Put dough in lightly greased bowl, turn to coat all sides, cover and put in warm, draft-free place to rise for about 1 hour.

When dough has risen, knead lightly to push out air and divide into small pieces (about 10 - 12). Using the hands, roll each small piece into a strip about 8 - 10 inches long. Shape each strip into an 'S' or a figure 8. Place on lightly buttered cookie sheets.

Cover with clean cloth and let rise again until double in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F.

When dough has risen, brush lightly with egg white. Some people place a single raisin in each curve of the "S" or at the center of each circle formed by the figure-8s. Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on wire rack.

The Saint is honored in Sweden by public processions of "Lucias," and cities will elect an official "Lucia" for the year, with Sweden as a country also electing a national representative of the Saint. Lucia is honored, as well, by the Neapolitan song "Santa Lucia" -- but with the lyrics altered to focus on the Saint rather than the Italian harbor named for her.

Lucia, as a symbol of illumination and light, makes an appearance in all three parts of Dante's "Divine Comedy."  In Canto two of Inferno, she is sent by Our Lady to Beatrice in order to get Beatrice to send Virgil to help Dante. In Purgatorio, she carries Dante to Purgatory. And in Paradiso, she sits near St. Peter, and St. Anne, who gazes at her daughter, the Blessed Virgin.

Finally, in yet another astronomical coincidence (or not?) given the meaning of Lucia's name, the evening of the 13th/morning of the 14th is the time when the Geminids make their appearance. The Geminids, along with the Perseids in August (see the Feast of St. Lawrence) and the Leonids in November, are the meteor showers that tend to be the largest and spectacular. The Geminids can also be rather colorful! Look toward the East after midnight to try to see them! Learn more about the Zodiac and meteor showers here.


From The Liturgical Year
By Dom Geuranger

There comes to us, today, 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 [Cecilia]; 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 Rosalia, 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.

The Life of St. Lucy

From "The Golden Legend"
by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa
A.D. 1275

Lucy is said of light, and light is beauty in beholding, after that S. Ambrose saith: The nature of light is such, she is gracious in beholding, she spreadeth over all without Iying down, she passeth in going right without crooking by right long line; and it is without dilation of tarrying, and therefore it is showed the blessed Lucy hath beauty of virginity without any corruption; essence of charity without disordinate love; rightful going and devotion to God, without squaring out of the way; right long line by continual work without negligence of slothful tarrying. In Lucy is said, the way of light.

S. Lucy, the holy virgin, was born in Sicily, and extract and engendered of a noble lineage, in the city of Syracuse. When she heard of the good fame and renown of S. Agatha or Agaas, which was published and spread all about, anon she went to her sepulchre with her mother which was named Euthicia, which had a malady, named the bloody flux, by the space of four years, the which no master in physic ne surgery could heal. And when they were at a mass, one read a gospel which made mention of a woman which was healed of the bloody flux by touching of the hem of the coat of Jesu Christ. When S. Lucy heard this, anon she said to her mother: Mother, if ye believe that this which is read be true, and also that S. Agatha hath now presently with her Jesu Christ, and also that for his name she suffered martyrdom, and if ye, with this belief, touch her sepulchre, without doubt ye shall be anon guerished and healed.

Upon this they, after the mass, when the people were departed, they twain fell down on their knees on the sepulchre of S. Agatha in prayers, and weeping began to pray for her help and aid.

S. Lucy in making her prayers for her mother fell asleep, and she saw in her sleep S. Agatha among the angels, nobly adorned and arrayed with precious stones, which said thus to her: Lucy, my sweet sister, devout virgin to God, wherefore prayest thou to me for thy mother, for such thing as thou mayest thyself right soon give to her? For I tell the truth, that for thy faith, and thy good, thy mother is safe and whole.

With these words S. Lucy awoke all afraid, and said to her mother: Mother, ye be guerished and all whole; I pray you for her sake by whose prayers ye be healed, that ye never make mention to me for to take an husband ne spouse, but all that good that ye would give me with a man, I pray you that ye will give it to me for to do alms withal that I may come to my saviour Jesu Christ.

Her mother answered to her: Fair daughter, thy patrimony, which I have received this nine years, sith thy father died, I have nothing aminished, but I have multiplied and increased it; but abide till I am departed out of this world, and then forthon do as it shall please thee.

S. Lucy said: Sweet mother, hear my counsel: he is not beloved of God, that for his love giveth that which he may not use himself, but if thou wilt find God debonair to thee, give for him that which thou mayest dispend, for after thy death thou mayest in no wise use thy goods. That which thou givest when thou shalt die, thou givest it because thou mayest not bear it with thee. Give then for God's sake whiles thou livest: and as to such good as thou oughtest to give to me with an husband or spouse, begin to give all that to your people for the love of Jesu Christ.

Hereof spake alway Lucy to her mother, and every day they gave alms of their goods. And when they had almost sold their patrimony and their jewels, tidings came to the knowledge of her spouse that should have wedded her, and that she was promised to, the which he demanded hereof the truth of the nurse of S. Lucy, and wherefore they sold thus their patrimony. She answered cautelously, and said that they did it because that S. Lucy, which should have been his wife, had found one which had a more fairer and nobler heritage than his was, the which they would buy tofore ere they should assemble by marriage. The fool believed it, for he understood carnally this that the nurse had said to him spiritually, and helped them to sell their heritage.

But when he understood that she gave all for God's love, and that he felt himself deceived, anon he complained on Lucy, and made her to come tofore a judge named Paschasius, which was a miscreant and heathen man. And it was because she was christian, and that she did against the law of the Emperor, Paschasius blamed her, and admonested her to worship and do sacrifice to the idols.

She said: Sacrifice which pleaseth God is to visit the widows and orphans, and to help them in their need: I have not ceased these three years past to make to God such sacrifice, and forasmuch as I have no more of which I may make yet such sacrifice, I offer to him myself, let him do with his offering as it pleaseth him.

Paschasius said: Thou mightest say these words unto christian people, semblable to thee, but to me which keep the commandments of the emperors, thou sayest them in vain.

S. Lucy said: If thou wilt keep the law of thy lords, I shall keep the law of God; thou doubtest to anger them, and I shall keep me that I anger not my God; thou wilt please them, and I covet only to please our Lord Jesu Christ.

Paschasius said: Thou hast dispended thy patrimony with the ribalds, and therefore thou speakest as a ribald.

She said. I have set my patrimony in a sure place; unto the corruption of my heart ne body, I never agreed ne suffered it.

Paschasius said: Who be they that corrupt the heart and the body?

She said: Ye be that corrupt the hearts, of whom the apostle said: The evil words corrupt the good manners. Ye counsel the souls to forsake their creator and to ensue the devil in making sacrifice to the idols; the corrupters of the body be they that love the short delectations corporal, and despite delights spiritual that endure for ever.

Paschasius said: These words that thou sayest shall finish when thou shalt come to thy pains.

She said: The words of God may not end ne finish.

Paschasius said: How then! art thou God?

She said: I am the handmaid of God, and for so much as I say, they be the words of God, for he saith: Ye be not they that speak tofore the princes and judges, but the Holy Ghost speaketh in you.

Paschasius said: And therefore the Holy Ghost is in thee?

She said: The apostle saith that they be the temple of God that live chastely, and the Holy Ghost dwelleth in them.

Paschasius said: I shall do bring thee to the bordel, where thou shalt lose thy chastity, and then the Holy Ghost shall depart from thee.

She said: The body may take no corruption but if the heart and will give thereto assenting: for if thou madest me to do sacrifice by my hands, by force, to the idols, against my will, God shall take it only but as a derision, for he judgeth only of the will and consenting. And therefore, if thou make my body to be defouled without mine assent, and against my will, my chastity shall increase double to the merit of the crown of glory. What thing that thou dost to the body, which is in thy power, that beareth no prejudice to the handmaid of Jesu Christ.

Then commanded Paschasius that the ribalds of the town should come, to whom he delivered S. Lucy, saying: Call other to you for to defoul her, and labour her so much till she be dead. Anon the ribalds would have drawn her from thence where she was, and have brought her to the bordel, but the Holy Ghost made her so pesant and heavy that in no wise might they move her from the place. Wherefore many of the servants of the judge put hand to, for to draw with the other, and she abode still. Then they bound cords to her hands and feet, and all drew, but she abode alway still as a mountain, without moving. Whereof Paschasius was all anguishous and angry, and did do call his enchanters, which might never move her for all enchantery. Then Paschasius did do yoke for her oxen many, for to draw her, and yet they might not move her from the place. Then Paschasius demanded her for what reason might it be that a frail maid might not be drawn ne moved by a thousand men.

She said: It is the work of God, and if thou settest thereto yet ten thousand they should not move me.

Of these words the judge was sore tormented

And S. Lucy said to him: Wherefore tormentest thou thyself thus? If thou hast proved and assayed that I am the temple of God, believe it. If thou hast not assayed, learn to assay.

And hereof was the judge more tormented, for he saw that she made but her mockery with him. Wherefore he did do make about S. Lucy a right great fire, and made to be cast on her pitch, resin, and boiling oil, and she abode all still tofore the fire, and said: I have prayed to Jesu Christ that this fire have no domination in me to the end that the christian men that believe in God make of thee their derision. And I have prayed for respite of my martyrdom for to take away from the christian men the fear and dread to die for the faith of Jesu Christ, and to take away from the miscreants the avaunting of my martyrdom.

The friends of the judge saw that he was confused by the words of S. Lucy, and of the drawing much greatly tormented, and therefore they roof a sword through her throat, and yet for all that she died not anon, but spake to the people, saying: I announce and show to you that holy church shall have peace, for Diocletian the emperor, which was enemy to holy church is this day put out of his seignory, and Maximian, his fellow, is this day dead. And in likewise as S. Agatha is patroness and keeper of Catania, in the same wise shall I be committed to be patroness of Syracuse, this city.

And as she spake thus to the people, the sergeants and ministers of Rome came for to take Paschasius and bring him to Rome, because he was accused tofore the senators of Rome of that he had robbed the province; wherefore he received his sentence of the senate, and had his head smitten off. S. Lucy never removed from the place where she was hurt with the sword, ne died not till the priest came and brought the blessed body of our Lord Jesu Christ. And as soon as she had received the blessed sacrament she rendered and gave up her soul to God, thanking and praising him of all his goodness. In that same place is a church edified in the name of her, whereas many benefits have been given to the honour of our Lord Jesu Christ, which is blessed world without end. Amen.

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