St Lucy and Cultivating the Catholic Imagination
We know our Catholic faith to be true based on Scripture and Tradition, and tradition doesn’t solely belong within the four walls of our Church, but every day within our own homes as well.
On December 13th, we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy. During a time of year when the days are short, and the darkness seems so prominent, celebrating a saint whose name means “light” is so beautifully fitting.
Although we know very little about her life, her legacy of a life of holiness and ultimately her death of martyrdom are more than enough incentives to carry on the celebration of her feast in Catholic households around the world every year.
Like many other early Catholic saints, the details of Lucy’s life are hard to track down. Not unlike the stories of St. George slaying the dragon, St. Patrick casting out the snakes from Ireland, or St. Nicholas tossing bags of coins down the chimney.
I’d like to believe there is truth in these stories, but whether they are factual accounts or inspired legends isn’t as important as the fact that these saints such as St. Lucy have captured the Catholic imagination.
On Her Feast Day
Traditionally on St Lucy’s feast day, the oldest daughter of the household dresses in a white dress with a wreath and candles on her head and wakes the rest of the family with saffron buns or other favorite baked treats.
Growing up, we followed this tradition because of my Mother’s Swedish background. I can tell you that the anticipation and preparation for this tradition was something we looked forward to every year.
A Family Tradition
The duty and honor of dressing up as St Lucy rotated among my sisters and me, and the years when the role fell on me always held such excitement.
I would open my eyes to my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, gently shaking me awake. Letting my eyes adjust to the darkness of my room as the sun had not yet risen, my mother would whisper a reminder of what day it was. It was never hard to forgo the comfort of my warm bed when such an import duty fell on my shoulders. I would liken myself to St. Nicholas bringing festive life-changing gifts or St. Elizabeth of Hungary smuggling food secretly to those whose lives depended on it. My duty on those happy mornings seemed so essential as a small child. In my childhood, the days I was woken up extra early or allowed to stay up much past bedtime are particularly etched into my memory. The smell of fresh-baked bread always makes the memory that much sweeter.
But whether we were the ones waking up early to get dressed in white to prepare and deliver the tray of treats or the ones woken up with warm baked goods to be eagerly eaten in bed, it lifted us out of our everyday routines. It joyfully marked the day as a day of celebration.
Benefits of the Catholic Imagination
As we read earlier in the gospel of Luke, Martha prepares for our Lord, but Mary is the one praised for finding a place at Our Lord’s feet. In preparation for Jesus’ birth, let us strive to be “Marthas” during this advent season so that we can receive Jesus as “Marys” this Christmas.