According to tradition, St. Lucy was born near the end of the 3rd century in Syracuse, Sicily, to a Roman father (who would die while she was quite young) and a Greek mother, Eutychia. The traditional stories describe the family as wealthy and connected to nobility, but from an early age the pious Lucy hoped to devote all her time and worldly goods to doing God’s work and helping the poor.
However, Eutychia had Lucy unwilling betrothed to a pagan man. Lucy begged her mother to let her remain an unwed virgin and instead give the money of her dowry to the poor. Tradition holds that after Eutychia was miraculously cured of an ongoing hemorrhage when she visited the relics of St. Agatha (who had been martyred 50 years before) with Lucy, she granted her daughter’s request.
The pagan bridegroom however, did not take kindly to the betrothal being ended, and was angered when he learned the money and jewels of Lucy’s dowry were being distributed. It is said that, incensed by these events, the man denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor during the time of the especially fierce Diocletian persecutions. Lucy was ordered to burn a sacrifice in honor of the Emperor. When she refused, she was sentenced to be put in a brothel to be defiled.
Hearing her sentence, Lucy is said to have remained unafraid and merely replied, “No one’s body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”
When the soldiers came to transport Lucy, the young woman was so filled with Holy Spirit that she had become quite immovable, heavy and stiff as a mountain. They were unable to drag her from her spot even when they tied her to a team of oxen. Since the soldiers could not move Lucy, they resolved to kill her on the spot. She suffered her eyes being cut out and she was covered with oil and burned before her persecutors were able to kill her by sword.
Read more about St. Lucy and the celebration of St. Lucia Day here.