“If only I can see, I would believe.” Have you ever heard someone say this? God teaches us to have faith, but our human weaknesses often stretch our resolve and push us to seek more tangible proof. The problem is, however, we are often too distracted to even see the proof when it is right in front us.
Rose Raimondi, an Italian woman born in Palermo, Sicily around 1870, was not too distracted to see. In fact, her view of God and her faith only grew stronger when she lost her vision as a young woman.
There appeared to be no medical remedies for Rose’s blindness so this deeply religious woman turned to prayer and specifically to Saint Lucy, a Christian martyr who lived in Sicily, between 283 and 304 AD.
Known during her time as Lucia of Syracuse, St. Lucy was martyred during the persecution of Christians within the Roman Empire, in 304.
Lucia was born of noble parents, but she was consecrated for pledging her virginity to God and seeking to distribute her dowry to the poor. Prior to her execution, Lucia was tortured and had her eyes gouged out. Because of this, she became known as the Patron Saint of Sight following her canonization. Her feast day is December 13th.
In her prayers to St. Lucy, Rose, who did not yet have children, made a very specific promise. If St. Lucy would help restore her sight, Rose vowed that she, her children and her children’s children would never again eat flour (a staple in nearly every facet of the Italian diet) on St. Lucy’s feast day. Rose kept up her prayers to St. Lucy faithfully and, miraculously, when she woke up on the following Dec. 13th, her sight was restored.
Rose, who immigrated to the United States after the turn of the century, made good on her promise and never again ate flour on St. Lucy’s feast day.
John Bilello, Rose’s great grandson, stated that the tradition remains cherished by the family.
“Each year, prior to St. Lucy’s Feast Day, everyone in the family reminds each other to keep the promise of not eating flour,” said Bilello. “We all make sure to call our children and grandchildren, so that we can all help keep the promise.”
St. Lucy’s Feast remains a major celebration in many regions of Italy and, ironically, it is marked by the consuming of large quantities of flour, including traditional feasts of home made pasta and various Italian dishes. Scandinavian countries, where winters are long and dark, mark the feast with festivals of light.
In the United States, the Santa Lucia Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, has been celebrated since 1925. Members of the ethnic Italian community process with a statue of Saint Lucy through the streets of downtown Omaha, carrying also a first-class relic of Saint Lucy.
The story of Rose and her faith in God, through St. Lucy, teaches us that we need not always see to believe. If we believe, however, we shall certainly see. †
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