Sunday, December 14, 2014

Commemorating St. Lucia and St. John of the Cross

This weekend the Church remembered St. Lucia and St. John of the Cross.

Unfortunately, much of St. Lucia's story has been lost to history.  According to some stories, St. Lucia's mother arranged for her marriage to a wealthy pagan man.  St. Lucia opposed the arrangement and led her mother to a Christian shrine, the Tomb of St. Agatha.  Here at this shrine, the mother's chronic illness was suddenly cured; this healing convinced St. Lucia's mother to cancel the arranged marriage and allow St. Lucia to follow her calling as a Christian.

Other stories allege that St. Lucia was tortured by Roman officials carrying out Diocletian's persecution of Christians.  These stories allege that the officials gouged out St. Lucia's eyes, leaving her blind until the Lord restored her sight.  The popularity of these stories (and the literal meaning of her name, which is "light") led to St. Lucia being named as the patron saint of those who are blind or suffer from eye troubles.  These may also explain why the celebration of St. Lucia often includes young girls wearing on their heads wreaths bearing lit candles.

What we do know is that St. Lucia lived in Syracuse and died a martyr's death during the Diocletian persecution.  If you would like to hear more about the stories surrounding St. Lucia's life and death, check out this summary.

We know much more about St. John of the Cross (it helps that he lived and died 1200 years after St. Lucia).  St. John's father gave up the wealth and status of his family name to marry a weaver's daughter.  St. John grew up in poverty and found work as a caretaker for those suffering from incurable diseases or madness.  In these conditions, St. John sought out and celebrated the beauty of the Lord which he could see even within the darkness of poverty and illness.  He was recruited to help reform a religious order, but the order imprisoned him rather than agree to the reforms.  Even in prison, where he was beaten three times a week, St. John wrote mystical poetry proclaiming the beauty of the Lord even within prison.  St. John managed to escape from this prison and went on to become one of the great mystics of the Reformation era.  You can discover more about St. John of the Cross by reading this summary.

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