Sodality of Charity
Gaudete Sunday / St. Lucy Feast at SGG
On December 13, the feast of St. Lucy, which this year fell on Gaudete Sunday, some of the Sodality girls arranged the Lucia procession before the 9 AM High Mass. As is the old Swedish and Nordic tradition, the Lucia maiden and her entourage processed in when the choir sung the traditional Neapolitan song “Santa Lucia.” This song originally appraises the beauty of Naples' beautiful waterfront district of Borgo Santa Lucia, but in the Nordic countries it became associated with the feast of St. Lucy. As an extra the procession featured the youngest girl walking in front of the Lucia maiden carrying the eyes on a platter.
St. Lucy was born from wealthy parents in Syracuse, Sicily. Her father died when she was very young, and her mother Eutychia raised her piously to love God and Church. Lucy was still a child when she made the vow to remain unmarried in the honor of God. When Eutychia became seriously ill, Lucy talked her to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Agatha, and she was cured.
According to ancient stories St. Lucy, in her acts of charity, delivered wheat and bread to the poor and homebound. Because of the fierce persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, she also came to comfort the hunted Catholics in the catacombs, often in the darkness of night to avoid the police. She would carry a lamp or wear a crown of candles (to free her hands for carrying food) to light her way.
One of the young noblemen of Syracuse, who was a pagan, fell in love with Lucy and wished to marry her. He especially admired her beautiful eyes. When he told Lucy that her beautiful eyes "haunted him day and night," she, to stay chaste, cut them out and sent them to him, asking to be left in peace thereafter. For this great sacrifice God gave Lucy a pair of even more beautiful eyes. In another effort to escape marriage, she gave away her dowry among the poor. This so angered the young man that he renounced Lucy to the governor as a Christian, and the authorities demanded that she perform a sacrifice to the pagan gods. She refused and was taken to prison, tortured and condemned to death. When the guards came to fetch Lucy from her cell, they could not move her. In an effort to carry out their orders they put ropes around her, and then set the floor on fire. When neither of these tricks worked, they stabbed her in the neck.
St. Lucy was honored at Rome as one of the most celebrated virgins and martyrs, and she is one of the few female saints whose name appears in the Canon of the Mass. But she also became venerated in the dark and cold north, in Sweden and in Norway. How this came about is not known exactly, but there is an old Scandinavian legend that during a terrible famine in southern Sweden, on the darkest day of the year, people saw a boat sailing across Lake Vänern. St. Lucia was at its prow, dressed in white and glowing with light. When the boat came to the shore, she handed out enough sacks of wheat for the people to have bread through the winter. In Sweden St. Lucy became honored as the “queen of light” who leads the way for the sun to bring back the longer days. In the family celebrations of St. Lucy, the oldest daughter would wear a wreath set with four white candles and this may have been the precursor to the Advent wreath, which had its origins in northern Europe. Lucia traditions also included making “Lussekatter,” sweet saffron breakfast breads, and visiting the poor, sick, or homebound to serve them with coffee and to sing the Santa Lucia song. In some parts of the Scandinavian countries it was even St. Lucy who brought presents to children, rather than St. Nicholas. When Sweden had become Catholic nation, the Christmas season lasted from the feast of St. Lucy on Dec. 13 until the feast of St. Canute on Jan. 13.
Fr. Alban Butler gives some good things for parents to meditate concerning the feast of St. Lucy:
It is a matter of the greatest consequence what ideas are stamped upon the easily molded minds of children, and what sentiments are impressed on their hearts, and to what habits they are first formed. Let them be introduced to little denials, both in their will and their senses. Let them learn that those pleasures which gratify the senses must be guarded against, and used with great fear and moderation. For by these pleasures the taste is debauched, and the constitution of the soul is broken and spoiled. And this is done much more fatally than that of the body can be broken by means contrary to its health. Let them be taught that temperance is the highest luxury; for only the pleasures of temperance are easy, solid, and permanent. The passions are much easier to conquer than to satisfy. Unless the passions are curbed by a vigorous restraint in childhood, when they are still easily suppressed, they will be much harder to subdue in adulthood. Obstinacy, inability of control, sloth, and over-sensuality are of all dispositions in youth the most dangerous.
Children, like tender osiers, take the bow,
And as they first are fashioned always grow.
There are few Lucies now-a-days amongst Christian ladies, because sensuality, pride, and vanity are instilled into their minds by the false maxims and pernicious example of those with whom they first converse. Alas! unless a constant watchfulness and restraint produce and strengthen good habits, the inclinations of our souls lean of their own accord towards corruption.
Thank you for all those who helped to make this feast of St. Lucy so wonderful and blessed!