In the ancient city of Syracuse beside the Ionian Sea, there lived a wealthy woman and her daughter Lucy, in a great mansion. The house was so large, and only the two of them dwelt there, so that many of the rooms were left closed up, furniture covered with ghost-white sheets, cobwebs casting shadows in the corners.
On an early winter’s night, when the rainy season had just begun and the clouds marched down across the waves, Lucy was saying her prayers and she made a vow. She would not marry; she would consecrate her virginity to God and distribute her dowry to the poor. Yet on the self-same night, unaware of her daughter’s pledge, Lucy’s mother was arranging her marriage to a young man of the city, a man from a pagan family.
As thunder shook the little island, Lucy’s mother came and told her of the plans. Lucy was horrified, for she wished to honor her mother, but she had pledged herself to God. Lightning split the sky, and the wind whipped through empty halls. She threw herself at her mother’s mercy, and told her of her vow.
Now Lucy’s mother was a virtuous woman, and as her daughter begged of her, she yielded. “Keep your vow to God,” she said, “for he is father to us both.” Lucy kissed her mother’s feet, and they retired to bed, two women, alone in an ancient house battered by a terrible storm.
In the morning, the storm had passed, and Lucy went through the muddy streets, seeking out the poor and the impoverished whom she found hidden in the alleys and huddled in doorways. To each, she gave a portion of her dowry, golden coins and precious jewels.
But that night, as evening fell, the man to whom Lucy’s mother had promised her heard that she was wasting his rightful dowry on the poor, and that she refused to marry him. His anger burned like a fire within his breast, and in his fury he rushed to the Governor of Syracuse, denouncing her for her faith.
The Roman soldiers descended on Lucy’s mansion like a murder of crows and carried her off in their sharp talons, to throw her down at the feet of the Governor. He was a stern man, with a slick-oiled beard and ravenous eyes.
“What will you say for yourself, Lucy? Have you squandered the dowry that was meant for this fine man? Have you said you give yourself only to God? Are you one of these atheist Christians?” he spat.
Lucy held herself strong. “I have, and I am,” she said.
The Governor brought her before the image of the Emperor, and with a smirk he commanded her to offer sacrifices to it. Though she shivered, Lucy refused and as she cast her eyes upward to heaven, suddenly she was possessed by the Holy Ghost which spoke through her to the Governor, “You shall soon be punished for your deeds, and the Emperor himself will not save you, for he, too, is soon to die.”
The Governor saw the faith in Lucy’s eyes as she looked to heaven, and he flew to rage. With a furious command, he ordered his men to seize her and to put an end to her vision. As she stood, held in their grasp, he descended from his seat and reached out his hands like claws. She screamed in pain as, with each sharp thumb, he gouged out poor Lucy’s eyes.
Though blind and bleeding, still she refused to betray her vow to God. The Governor wiped his hands on his tunic and told his men, “She says she shall be chaste for God. I will not have it. Take her to the brothel; let men pay to defile her!”
But as those who held her tried to move her, they found they could not, for she was become supernaturally heavy, solid as a mountain. They brought a team of oxen and hitched them to her, but the oxen could not move her and the ropes burst.
The Governor stamped his feet and ordered her burned. They brought in bundles of wood and piled them all around her. With flint they struck the flame and the wood burned like tinder, the fire so hot that all nearby had to step back. But though the fire blazed so high, the flames round her head, it refused to touch Lucy, even to singe her snow-white dress.
Though she was blind, she seemed to look right at the Governor, and spoke from the flames. “I know you will not cease until I am dead, but know that death will only unite me to my God, whom I love above all else.”
His face went pale and his mouth snarled. The Governor snatched a sword from his soldier’s belt and he plunged himself into the fire and ran her through. And so, Lucy gave up her ghost and she was taken into the arms of God.
And it is for this reason that Lucy is now the patron saint of the Blind, and of Syracuse, and indeed, all of Malta.
Sebastian Faust lives in a dilapidated mansion overlooking Nashville, Tennessee, with three succubae and a manservant named Radley. He enjoys falconry, the blood of the chaste and pure, and reruns of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting. He doesn’t, however, enjoy Twitter, so you can’t follow him there.
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