The title, Our Lady of Sorrows, given to our Blessed Mother, focuses on her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord. Traditionally, this suffering was not limited to the passion and death event; rather, it comprised the seven dolors or seven sorrows of Mary, which were foretold by the Priest Simeon who proclaimed to Mary, “This child [Jesus] is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady has its roots in Sacred Scripture and in Christian piety, which always associates the Blessed Mother with her suffering Son. Today’s feast was introduced by the Servites in order to intensify devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows. In 1817 Pius VII — suffering grievously in exile but finally liberated by Mary’s intercession — extended the feast to the universal Church.
This feast dates back to the 12th century. It was especially promoted by the Cistercians and the Servites, so much so that in the 14th and 15th centuries it was widely celebrated throughout the Catholic Church. In 1482 the feast was added to the Missal under the title of “Our Lady of Compassion.” Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman Calendar in 1727 on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X fixed the date on September 15. The title “Our Lady of Sorrows” focuses on Mary’s intense suffering during the passion and death of Christ. “The Seven Dolors,” the title by which it was celebrated in the 17th century, referred to the seven swords that pierced the Heart of Mary. It is dedicated to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Mother of God, and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son, Jesus. In her suffering as co-redeemer, she reminds us of the tremendous evil of sin and shows us the way of true repentance. As Mary stood at the foot of the Cross on which Jesus hung, the sword of sorrow Simeon had foretold pierced her soul.
Below are the seven sorrows of Mary:
1. The prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” – Luke II, 34-35.
2. The flight into Egypt: “And after they (the wise men) were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise and take the child and His mother and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and He was there until the death of Herod.” – Matt. II, 13-14.
3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: “And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and His parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day’s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him.” Luke II, 43-45.
4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: “And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.” – Luke XXIII, 27.
5. The Crucifixion: “They crucified Him. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother. When Jesus therefore had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, He saith to His Mother: Woman: behold thy son. After that he saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother.” – John XIX, l8-25-27.
6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross: “Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counselor, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking Him down, wrapped Him up in the fine linen.” – Mark XV, 43-46.
7. The burial of Jesus: “Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein no man yet had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulcher was nigh at hand.” John XIX, 41-42.
The Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary)
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Prior to the Second Vatican Council, there were two feasts devoted to the sorrows of Mary. The first feast was insitituted in Cologne in 1413 as an expiation for the sins of the iconoclast Hussites. The second is attributed to the Servite order whose principal devotion are the Seven Sorrows. It was instituted in 1668, though the devotion had been in existence since 1239 – five years after the founding of the order.
Symbols: heart pierced with a sword; heart pierced by seven swords; winged heart pierced with a sword; flowers: red rose, iris (meaning: “sword-lily”), cyclamen.
Prayer to our Sorrowful Mother for a particular grace:
O, mother most holy and sorrowful, Queen of Martyrs, you who stood by your Son as He agonized on the cross; by the sufferings of your life, by that sword of pain that pierced your heart, by your perfect joy in heaven, look down on me kindly as I kneel before you, sympathizing with your sorrows and offering you my petition with childlike trust.
Dear Mother, since your Son refuses you nothing, ask of His Sacred Heart to mercifully grant what I ask, through the merits of His sacred passion, along with those of your sufferings at the foot of the cross.
Mother most merciful, to whom shall I go in my misery if not to you who pities us poor sinful exiles in this valley of tears? In our name, offer Jesus but one drop of His most precious blood, but one pang of His loving heart. Remind Him that you are our sweetness, our life and our hope, and your prayer will be heard.
Here are seven graces the Blessed Virgin Mary grants to souls who honor Her daily by saying seven Hail Marys and meditating on Her tears and Dolors. The devotion was passed to us by Saint Bridget.
I will grant peace to their families.
They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.
I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the Adorable Will of my Divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.
I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their mother.
I have obtained (this grace) from my Divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and sorrows, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV)
Today we mark the end of the Christmas season – the Day of Epiphany. We celebrate this day to reflect on the visit of the Magi – the wise men – to Jesus and the giving of their gifts. We reflect on the meaning of this visit of those wise ones to see Jesus.
Epiphany is about Jesus and his message being available and relevant to people of every age and race. Jesus isn’t just a Jewish prophet with an exciting message, but God made present amongst us and available to all of us to worship and follow. God’s love reaches beyond the everyday barriers of race and class; something the Magi didn’t quite get at first.
So Who Were the Magi?
We don’t know much about the Magi from Scripture. All Saint Matthew tells us is that they were “Magi from the East”. Some translations have “Wise men from the East”. The word in Greek refers to priests of the Zoroastrian religion. They came from Persia, the countries now known as Iran and Iraq, and they saw meaning in the movement of the stars. Their visit fits an Eastern pattern of great births being accompanied by momentous events in the sky. Certainly we know of a comet in 11BCE in Gemini with its head towards Leo, seen by many as a symbol of Judah. We also know of planetary conjunctions in both 7 BCE and 6 BCE which would have added to a sense that momentous happenings were on the way. The Magi would have noticed these things and taken them seriously. But who were they?
One commentator, Brian Stoffregen puts it like this;
“Originally in Persia, Magi were dream- interpreters. By Jesus’ time, the term referred to astronomers, fortune-tellers, or star-gazers. They were horoscope fanatics – a practice condemned by Jewish standards. We might compare them to people in fortune – telling booths, or people on the “psychic hotline” or other “occupations” that foretell the future by stars, tea leaves, Tarot cards etc. They were magicians, astronomers, star-gazers, pseudo-scientists, fortune tellers…”
Another writer, Nathan Nettleton, puts it like this;
“They were the speakers of the sacred words at the pagan sacrifices. At worst, the term referred to a magician or sorcerer, or even a deceiver. Magi were people whose activities were repeatedly condemned and prohibited throughout the scriptures and were completely anathema to the people of Israel.”
Whilst in English we get the words “magic” and “magician” from Magi, the Zoroastrian religion forbade sorcery. They clearly were looking for a new king and had found meaning in the movement of the planets and stars which led them to come to Israel to greet the new-born king. They journeyed from their homes in Persia to Bethlehem in search of this baby. Instead of angels and visions, we have the image of the Magi following a sign in the skies – in nature – and for a long period of time. The magi see the intentions of God in the skies. This is not new: Psalm 19 tells us that the heavens themselves declare who God is, and that his handiwork is seen in created nature. “We observed his star at its rising”. The magi know that there is something significant happening.
When did they come?
The Gospel of Saint Luke doesn’t mention the Magi and holds that the Holy Family returned to Nazareth after the presentation of Jesus at the Temple where he was circumcised. It’s probable that Saint Luke didn’t know of this episode in Jesus’ early life. Saint Matthew seems to place the visit of the Magi some time after Jesus’ birth. The Holy Family are in a “house” not in the stable of the inn. Herod kills all the newborn boys under the age of two years. So it’s likely that the Holy Family had stayed for some time in Bethlehem and the Magi came some time after Jesus’ birth, perhaps as long as two years after.
WHY did they come?
Clearly, the Magi were searching. The Magi recognized much of the truth of Jesus, who he was and what he would become. The Magi had a general idea of this God and this King of the Jews, but they didn’t really know who or what they were looking for. Bono and U2 were criticized some years ago by some supposedly orthodox Christians when they produced a song entitled, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which is about searching for fulfillment. You see, the example of the Magi was that they were searchers, not really knowing what or who they were looking for. They didn’t claim to have it all but they saw their lives as a journey of discovery. And they were willing to take risks. They were willing to leave all that they had, all that they new, and risk it all for the sake of seeking out this child, this new king. And in that they are an example to us. We don’t know it all. But if we, like them, are prepared to be diligent seekers, then, like them, we may be graced by God’s light, by our own Epiphany. If we are willing to take the risk, the risk maybe of being shunned at work, the risk of condemnation by our friends and family, the risk of paying the price for following Christ….well…..When the wise men finally found Jesus, we are told that their first response was joy – “they were overwhelmed with joy”. That is what happens when we find Jesus. This is what awaits us at the end of the journey if we take that risk. Next, they paid him homage – they worshiped him and acknowledged Him as King. After the joy comes the worship. That means acknowledging Jesus as King. Jesus as the center. Jesus as Lord. And then, after joy and after worship, comes offering of their gifts. In response to who Jesus is and the joy He gives, we offer ourselves and our gifts to Him.
So my message for today is to dare, like them, to take the risk of seeking, and God may well bless us with our own Epiphanies which transform us, as doubtless the Magi were transformed by what must have been a surprising experience for them as they knelt before the infant Jesus.
So how do you find Jesus? Maybe you can start out like the Magi – with a general idea of God, and a general idea that He is guiding you. Like the Magi, we need to turn to the scriptures. If you don’t read them, you will never really get the specific directions that God is trying to give you. Approach them with the right spirit, the right purpose. Ask for help along the way – the church, we, God’s people, are meant to help you along that way. The wise men knew when they needed to ask someone else for help. And pray. Ask God. When you find Jesus, rejoice. After all, He is God. Put Him in the center of your life. Ask yourself whether what you are doing honors him a King. Offer to him what you have, who you are.
Where can this Jesus be found? He is with you now. Won’t you seek Him? Won’t you recognize Him? Won’t you let Him fill YOUR life with joy? Amen.
Reading 1:1 JN 3 :7-10
Psalm: PS 98:1,7=8,9
Gospel: JN 1:35=42
Today we commemorate the Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Throughout Biblical history and even today, we sometimes come across people who have endured much within their lives and who, regardless of this, remain strong and devout within their faith. Today we remember St Elizabeth, whom is one such person from whose life, heart and devotion, we can take inspiration within our own spiritual life.
Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be Canonized to sainthood.
Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley in New York city on the 28th August in the year 1774, and she was a child of the Revolutionary war. She was raised Episcopalian which was the faith of her parents.
Elizabeth married at the young age of only nineteen, to William Magee Seton, who was a young but wealthy merchant and together they parented five children.
Elizabeth had a very deep faith and concern for the poor even as a young woman and she shared this devotion with her sister-in-law, Rebecca Seton, with whom she became very close friends. Together, Elizabeth and Rebecca would undertake various missions for the poor and needy of their region and they adopted the name of the ‘Protestant Sisters of Charity` for their mission works.
Elizabeth’s life changed after only four years of marriage and became rather burdensome in nature. Elizabeth and her husband were left with the responsibility for seven half-brothers and sisters of William’s father when he died in the year 1798.
Elizabeth suffered further in the year 1801, when her own father with whom she had a close relationship, especially since the loss of her mother at aged only three, himself passed onto the care of the Lord.
Then yet again she suffered after only a further two years, when both her husband’s business and health failed. Filing for bankruptcy, Elizabeth and her husband sailed to Italy to help his health and to try to revive his business.
Whilst in Italy, Elizabeth suffered even further, as William’s condition worsened. He was quarantined and subsequently died of Tuberculosis in December of 1803. Elizabeth remained in Italy for several months after his death and during this time, was more fully exposed to the Catholic faith.
Elizabeth returned to New York city in June of 1804, only to suffer yet again with the loss of her dear friend and sister-in=-aw, Rebecca Seton, the very next month.
At only thirty years of age, Elizabeth had endured the loss of so many who were close to her and she seemed to have the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Even throughout all this, Elizabeth still remained fervent in faith.
The months ahead were life-changing for Elizabeth and she seemed ever more drawn to the Catholic faith and to Mother Church, much to the horror of her friends and remaining family who were firmly Protestant.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was received into the Catholic Church on the 4th March 1805. Her conversion cost her dearly in the areas of friendship and in support from her remaining family.
Elizabeth relocated to the Baltimore area and there she established a school for girls. She also founded a religious community along with two other young women and she took vows before the Archbishop Carroll as a member of the Sisters of Charity of St Joseph. From this time forward, Elizabeth was known as Mother Seton and she left a legacy of care and education for the poor. She even established the first free Catholic school of the nation.
In so many ways, the journey into the Catholic faith, helped Elizabeth to much more appreciate and to embrace her faith even more profoundly. Elizabeth was willing to endure all things to follow Christ. In her journal, she even wrote, ‘If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way’.
Many of us who have chosen the Catholic faith have experienced some setbacks and have had to endure issues with relationships, but for this brave and devout woman of faith, the cost was even greater.
Elizabeth died aged 46 on January 4th 1821 from Tuberculosis and she was Canonized on September 14th 1975.
On this your special day, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Pray for all of us who follow your pathway of faith. Pray that we likewise to yourself will say yes and will accept all that will come to us in the years ahead, and to allow our earthly endurance to further our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of The Father, and of The Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay”?
Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.” * (Link below)
These haunting words come from a song called the Coventry Carol. The “Coventry Carol” is an English Christmas carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was traditionally performed in Coventry in England as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Gospel of Matthew: the carol itself refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.
Now here we are on the fourth day of Christmas. In the midst of a time of happiness and joy and celebration and family and friends. A time where we forget about all the negativity in the world and celebrate the things that we have, and yet on our liturgical calendar we have a reminder of a great tragedy that occurred around the time of the birth of our Lord.
This tragedy sets the stage for what will become a common theme in Christianity, and that is the persecution of the Church. Today we set aside our celebrations to pause and pray and to remember those who have come before us and who have faced persecution for their belief in Christ and for those who are currently part of the persecuted Church.
According to a recent CNN report, 2015 was the most violent year for Christian persecution in modern history. More than 7,100 Christians were killed for their faith; that is up 3,000 from the previous year, and this year alone, according to Open Door, a watchdog organization that follows Christians persecution worldwide, in 2016 there were 322 Christians killed each month. In addition to the loss of life, each month there were 214 churches and Christian-owned properties destroyed; there were 722 acts of violence committed on Christians, ranging from abductions to rape. That is each month.
It is hard for us to imagine in the United States what it is like for our brothers and sisters who are in predominately Muslim countries where a majority of this persecution occurs. We have the opportunity to attend church on Sunday, usually without fear of anything happening to us or our loved ones, we can safely walk the streets and not worry about being harassed because of our faith. But our brothers and sisters are not so fortunate.
I believe that today we are called to remember those who are part of the persecuted church. I think that it is important to leave you with a few ideas on what you can do to help our brothers and sisters who are facing this persecution.
First we must understand that we are called to support our brothers and sisters. In Saint Paul’s First letter to the church at Corinth he says that, “we are one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” We must support organizations that help our brothers and sisters in these areas of persecution.
Second, we must bring awareness to the fact that the persecuted church does, in fact, exist. Talk to your friends and family and church leaders and see what you can collectively do together to support our brothers and sisters, especially in the Middle East.
Finally and most importantly, we must pray. Make prayer for the persecuted church part of your daily devotion. There is power in prayer and by praying and putting your faith into action. With prayer we can see miracles take place as we saw in November, when the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh celebrated its first mass in two years.
This is what we are called to do as Christians, to take action and to pray. To always remember the persecuted who have come before us and the persecuted who part of the Church today.
Let us pray:
O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in your which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
St. Stephen the Martyr=The link with Jesus’s birth
Reading 1:Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59
Psalm:PS 31: 3CD-4, 6 & 8AB, 16BC & 17
Gospel: MT 10:17-22
Yesterday, we celebrated Christmas, the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We contemplated the newly born baby Jesus lying in a stable manager, we sang carols, feasted, and heard the tidings of peace and joy for the whole world. Although we are still very much in a festive mood, with the carols still ringing in our ears and the feasting still bloating us, today’s Feast of St Stephen the first Martyr, is a stark contrast to that of yesterday, but there is indeed a true deep link between the birth of Our Lord Jesus and Today’s Feast of martyrdom.
We all too easily forget among all the joyous festivities of Christmas, that our Lord Jesus was born amongst us, into a hard, cold, and violent world. Our dear Lord Jesus, the Son of God, was born not in a fancy palace or building. No, of all places,he was born in a manger within a simple stable. Not long after his birth, King Herod was looking to have him killed. This was only the very beginning of the violence and persecution which our Lord Jesus was going to face in his life upon the earth, and this would ultimately lead to to his execution upon the cross, paying the ultimate price for our sins and to gain for us eternal life and salvation.
So, when we truly reflect upon both the joy of Christmas and Today’s martyrdom of St Stephen, we can see the deep connection between the divine love and tenderness and human violence and persecution. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to heal our human hate and violence with his divine tenderness and love for us. This was expressed in mercy and by Forgiveness, this was also witnessed to us by the martyrdom of St Stephen. Just as Stephen believed and showed to us, let us also believe the truth, that ugliness and the evil of human hate and violence can only truly be changed with the divine tenderness of love and Forgiveness.
It is only through God’s mercy, love and Forgiveness and of our showing it as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as St Stephen did, that hardened hearts will be turned into loving hearts.
We as Christians love the cross and we appreciate the role it played when Our Lord Jesus won our salvation by dying for our sins upon it and by His resurrection. However, to love the cross and its meaning in completeness, we must truly embrace it by following the command of Jesus when he says, “If you would be my disciples, take up your cross and follow me”.
Truly embracing the cross means we also must embrace our sufferings and hardships, just as our Lord Jesus did for each and every one of us. This has to go hand in hand with appreciating the salvation that Jesus won for us by his death upon the cross for our sakes, it is no good if we do not embrace all our sufferings also.
Today, we the Church, commemorate a man who did indeed truly love the cross, even to the extent that it became part of his name, that of St John of the Cross.
Although John’s father was from a wealthy noble family, he was disowned for marrying a poor peasant woman, and therefore John was born and raised in the sufferings of poverty. After first working as an orderly to the poor sick at a hospital because he couldn’t get an apprenticeship for a trade, John joined the Carmelite order as a simple brother Friar, but his superiors noticed his intelligence and sent him for advanced study before later ordaining him to the priesthood.
John who had much zeal for Apostolic counsel, became discouraged because many of his community failed to share his zeal, and he was about to leave to join the strict hermit order of the Carthusians when he met St Teresa of Avila, who was reforming the Carmelite nuns for the same issue as John had been experiencing.
Teresa convinced John to stay and reform the Carmelite friars and John threw himself into these reforms. Although John had the support of his General superior, many of the friars resisted John’s reform efforts and persecuted him.
John suffered being falsely accused of wrong teaching and he was imprisoned for nine months. He was blindfolded and led in the coldness of midwinter by very rough mountainous roads to prison in Toledo. He was imprisoned in forced seclusion in a little cell, scarcely six feet by ten, which was originally intended to be a closet and with the only little light being refracted from a tiny window located high on the wall. John suffered forced incarceration, isolation, forced fasting and discipline without even the simple comforts of a book or any writing materials.
John suffered all these many hardships and he embraced each and every one of them with such a profound love. He saw them as being his cross that he had to take up to truly follow Jesus.
Although St John leaves us the fruit of his spiritual writings, “The Dark Night of the Soul,” “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” and “The Spiritual Canticle,” by far the most important of all is that he leaves us his wonderful and beautiful witness of one who did indeed truly love and fully embrace the cross. What an example to us all St John of the Cross truly is!!
May the life and the witness of St John of the Cross, together with his intercession, help us to fully embrace and to take up our crosses, loving the cross as St John did and as we all truly ought to do.
Saint Lucy was born to a rich and noble family around 283 A.D. Her father died when she was young, so she was raised by her mother, Eutychia; and her mother had been considered to focus much of her own life around wealth and status. Lucy, on the other hand, believed that the poor should be cared for instead of focusing on worldly goods. Because of her will to advocate for the poor, she desired to consecrate herself and her virginity to God; yet was unwillingly forced into an arranged relationship with Paschasius by her mother, which Lucy was able to postpone for a few years.
Lucy’s mother developed a hemorrhage which lasted several years, and sought to have it cured by travelling to visit the relics of Saint Agatha who had been executed 52 years prior. Upon visiting the relics, Eutychia was cured; and because of this occasion Lucy saw the opportunity to convince her mother to distribute wealth to help the poor. Because of the healing, Eutychia allowed Lucy to follow her vocation. When Lucy did so, Paschasius was not pleased in losing his future spouse and he had her ordered to be put to death. Some accounts of her last days speak of being accused and condemned of prostitution, as well as set on fire, but God saved her because of her great devotion. While other accounts speak of having her tortured to the point of blindness; she eventually was put to death by the sword. She died in 304 A.D. and has been declared a martyr by the Church. In iconography, the emblem of eyes on a cup or plate apparently reflects popular devotion to her as protector of sight, because of her name, Lucia (from the Latin word “lux” which means “light”). In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate. Lucy was represented in Gothic art holding a dish with two eyes on it. She also holds the palm branch, symbol of victory over evil.
In today’s first reading from Zephaniah, we see that God is angry with the people for the negative actions, therefore Zephaniah declares he shall make things right with God, that way God will no longer be displeased. He declares that he shall purify the hearts of people, and rid them of the wrongdoings against others. He sees that it is the right thing to do in order for the people to have a relationship with God.
In the Gospel, we read that Jesus is challenging the chief priests and elders about their conduct. He uses the parable of two sons being asked to go out and work in the vineyard by their father; one initially refuses to work but eventually does go out and works, while the other son says he will work but never does. Jesus asks the chief priests and elders which son did his father’s will, and of course they answer him by saying the first son. Jesus affirms that they are correct, yet challenges them by telling them that they have “talked the talk, but not walked the walk.” Their actions speak of following God, but they have consistently done the complete opposite – just like the second son in the parable. Jesus points out that there have been people who have turned from their bad ways, and chosen to follow God and who are, therefore, like the first son, and will enter heaven before the chief priests and elders.
The life of Saint Lucy connects with these readings very well. She possessed the same mentality and conviction as Zephaniah. She knew that there was injustice in society and felt it was her calling to make things right. Lucy’s influence, growing up in wealth, yet desiring to consecrate herself to God and help the poor, ties in with her whole life being like the first son in the parable. She answered the call to help the poor instead of continuing the tradition in which she was raised. She saw that it was her vocation to do what was right, and actually follow through with the cause until the very end. She could very well have been like the second son by acknowledging God but continuing to bask in wealth and do nothing.
Saint Lucy is somebody who we should look to as an example as a way of living. Granted her story is about distributing wealth to the poor, that is only one form of a vocation of helping people in need. Everybody has gifts and talents which can be applied to help others. During my first journey in religious life, I was fortunate enough to know a religious sister who facilitated a ministry center which offered many community outreach programs to help the lives of those in need. The center offered after school meals, a program for immigrants to learn English, as well as classes to learn Life Skills. This sister knew it was her calling to provide the local community with the necessities of life. Yet what are WE going to do in order to be like Lucy; or the first son, if we turned from bad ways? Do we have resources which we are not fully sharing; money or simply time to put toward a ministry? Can we be like this sister I knew? Is there a whisper in your ear from God which you hear, but to which you are responding? Are we wanting to be like the second son, who says yes but then does not act on that yes? We have a week and a half before Christmas, so maybe this might be a time to reflect upon if there is something which we are called to do.
Father, may we be like Saint Lucy, and open our eyes and ears to recognize our true vocation in life. May we follow her example to be of presence and assistance within our own communities, and be like the first son who ultimately says yes. This we ask through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.