Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

This is a piece that I published in my columns but since it has to do with writers (sort of) I clipped it here as well :)

I was in a museum a few days ago, explaining the depiction of the Saints to my boyfriend. He comes from India and does not know much about Christianity. I come from Pat Robertson-brand of fundamentalist born again Christian and do not know much about Catholicism. But we seem to get along somehow, me through my interest in such matters as art and religion, he in being forced to live with me and listen to me talk.

"This is Saint Lucy," I said. "She is always shown holding her eyes on a plate because they tortured her by gouging out her eyes." I tried to explain the others but wasn't familiar with all of them. I knew that Mary Magdalene always held that jar, and Saint Catherine the wheel - though I couldn't remember the story behind it - but the others were more difficult. I always, however, recognized Saint Lucy.

One Christmas, several years ago when I was probably eighteen or nineteen years old, I asked my mother for a book about the Saints. It featured paintings of them along with their stories. She bought it for me, and I would gaze at those beautiful works of art whenever I had a chance. It was there that I learned about Saint Lucy, and why her eyes were like that.

When I went to Italy, I saw her around quite a bit, looking at me from the eyes in her head and the eyes on her plate.

And a few days ago, when I asked my close friend - a priest-to-be - who the patron saint of writers was, he told me that it was, in fact, Saint Lucy.

Could she be my patron saint too? Why does she keep resurfacing?

This is her story:

She was from Sicily (which, interestingly enough, is where some of my forbears hailed from), the daughter of nobility, born around 283 A.D. Her father died and her mother wasn't much interested in Lucy's ideas about spreading their wealth to the poor. That is, until Lucy's prayers at the shrine of St. Agatha healed her mother of illness.

Lucy dedicated her virginity to God, which did not please her betrothed, a man who was probably smarting from the loss of such a financially blessed wife. He denounced her to the governor of Sicily, and she was supposed to be forced to endure prostitution and shame, but God apparently made her immovable so that they could not bring her to the appointed place. She was strapped to bundles of wood and set on fire, but God saved her once again. Finally, they gouged out her eyes and killed her with a sword.

Lucy is also the patron saint of the blind.

So I wonder what the symbolism is here. Why is the patron saint of the blind, a woman whose eyes were ripped out, also the patron saint of writers? Could it be that writers do not only see with the physical eyes into the physical world, but deeper and clearer into the soul?


Andi said...

It's a common motif in children's and adolescent literature for the poor-sighted to see very clearly in relation to those around them. For instance, the child who is almost blind "sees" those who are wrong and others can't interpret. Outside of children's lit you have Tireseus, the blind prophet, etc. I think you're probably onto something...that her lack of sight, as the patron saint of writers indicates their ability to "see" deeper.

April Boland said...

That's such an interesting concept.