A clarity of vision

    December 13, 2023
    Advent reflection day 11 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green.

    Today we commemorate Saint Lucy, a martyr of the early Church who was born of a noble family in Syracuse, Sicily, during the Diocletian persecution.

    As a child, I was fascinated by Saint Lucy because of her depiction in church statues holding out a plate with her two eyes. This reflected a torture she suffered when — after a disappointed suitor accused her of being a Christian — Roman authorities gouged her eyes out before executing her, only for it to be discovered when her body was prepared for burial that her eyes had been miraculously restored by God.

    Coinciding as it does with the upcoming Winter Solstice, today’s Feast incorporates several traditions surrounding Saint Lucy — whose name derives from the Latin word lux, meaning “light” — assigning to her symbolic meaning as a bearer of light within the darkness of winter. One particular tradition that speaks to Saint Lucy’s charity holds that she would bring food and refreshment to Christians hiding in the catacombs during the Diocletian persecution, and that she would wear a candle-lit wreath to light her way to free her hands to provide as much aid to those in need as possible.

    In our terribly divided world where the darkness of multiple wars, poverty, disease, and prejudice too often blind us to the real needs of others, what is needed today is a restoration of vision that clearly sees and responds to the needs of every person we encounter. As it was for Saint Lucy nearly 1,800 years ago, this continues to be the work of Catholic Charities today — to see beyond divisions and observe the dignity of every person and respond to those who suffer; to see beyond poverty, borders, war and violence and respond to those who seek safety for themselves and their families; to see beyond bars and respond to those incarcerated, and those returning to society; and to see beyond disability, age and infirmity and respond with compassion to those in need of healing and care.

    On this Feast of Saint Lucy, may God bless us with a clarity of vision to see and respond to those around us as brothers and sisters in our one human family.

    Tom Dobbins Jr. is Director of Social and Parish Engagement for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, a producer for the “JustLove” radio broadcast on Sirius/XM’s Catholic Channel 129, and a board member of the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.

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