Catholic Herald Staff
Candles on head-wreaths and eyeballs on plates were curious conversation topics at a gathering of girls at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Amery. The Polk County Little Flowers Girls’ Club, which began meeting as a group in October 2017, learned about St. Lucy at its Dec. 1 meeting.
The informal gathering brought together five families, parishioners of the Amery parish as well as Our Lady of the Lakes in Balsam Lake and St. Joseph’s in Osceola. Approximately 20 children participated, ranging in ages from 3 to 14, including a few brothers of the member girls. All attendees have been part of the group since it started last year; a few new families have joined on occasion.
To start, children were led to a windowed corner off the parish hall space. Next to a statue of St. Therese of Lisieux, the group’s patron and model, they sat cross-legged on the floor and prayed to the saint known as “the Little Flower.” One line of the prayer reads: “May I always do the little things of life extra well for the love of God;” simple acts of faith, hope and love followed.
Bethany Eskro then introduced St. Lucy as the day’s theme saint. Flanked by two of her five daughters, Eskro said most of what is known about St. Lucy is legend, but that her commitment to Jesus and her martyrdom are very real, and she is an important witness even today.
Born in Syracuse, Sicily, Lucy was a young woman during the early fourth century persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Renowned for her beauty and betrothed to a pagan, Lucy’s mother learned of her daughter’s desire to remain a virgin for Christ only after she was healed of a physical ailment while visiting the tomb of another virgin martyr, St. Agatha. Legend has it that after the healing, her mother postponed the marriage so Lucy could spend her time and dowry doing acts of charity.
Denounced as a Christian by her betrothed, Lucy was condemned to live as a prostitute by the local governor. It is said she became unmovable, even by a team of oxen, something Lucy attributed to Jesus’ protection of her purity. An attempt to burn her alive was also thwarted; even after soaking the wood in oil, it would not burn. She finally died after being stabbed in the neck Dec. 13, 304.
More of St. Lucy’s story was shared in a meeting room where the girls were invited to color pictures of St. Lucy and enjoy treats in her honor. The girls made squeamish comments when they heard St. Lucy’s eyes were gouged out during her torture and that she is often pictured with two eyeballs on a plate.
One of the women present, Stephanie Griffith shared that her mother – a lifelong Protestant, and of Swedish heritage – carried on the tradition of baking sweet rolls on St. Lucy’s feast day. The saffron buns are twisted into two connected circles, each with a raisin in the middle to represent her eyes.
Many of the traditional celebrations of St. Lucy’s day come from Sweden. The meaning of the name Lucy – light – is particularly significant during the darkest days of December, and coincides with Advent preparations.
In Sweden, until the 18th century, her feast day coincided with the winter solstice and has become more of a cultural, than religious, tradition. As legend holds, Lucy would wear a wreath crown with candles to light her way in the dark catacombs as she brought food and drink to persecuted Christians.
The Little Flowers Girls Club activity on St. Lucy connects her with the virtue of loyalty.
As Heather Feldman, the Amery mother who coordinates the group, explained, each lesson focuses on a saint, a virtue and ties in one variety of flower. She explained that the club, whose materials are published by Behold Publications, Inc., follows a four-year cycle. Nine virtues comprise each year, or wreath, with coordinating saints and flowers.
The format is very adaptable, something the moms of the Polk County group were seeking. With girls of varying ages, mostly young, they were looking for something that would be fun and enjoyable but also with moments of reverence and elements of learning.
Their goal is to keep the monthly activities age-appropriate but increase the depth of content as their children grow. One option is the incorporation of sashes with badges and certificates; meetings can also be held more frequently.
For Eskro, who met Feldman through a Facebook group after moving her family back to Amery from Minnesota, she likes that the monthly activities are “easy, low-key, relaxed and with no pressure for perfection.” One of 10 children, Eskro’s younger siblings had participated in a Little Flowers girls club a little more than 10 years ago.
The mothers take turns planning month to month. While ideas abound on Pinterest and the internet, the group serves as a chance for fellowship and camaraderie for them as well. They are more motivated by each other’s support and friendship than interested in activities worthy of social media snapshots.
They commented on how much they appreciate the rural town setting and smaller school district for raising their families away from the urban hustle and bustle. Eskro appreciates the slower way of life and not having constant activities to pick and choose from.
“It forces us to start things on our own. We’ve had to really figure out what’s important about our faith and how we can implement it on a small scale amongst ourselves,” she said. “My kids are still little so this may change, but right now attending Mass and church-related activities are the things to do around here. There’s just not much else. I think it’s helped us create a lifestyle that revolves around our faith.”
The group meets at 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Amery. They took the summer months off, starting again in October for their second year. For more information on the local group, contact Heather Feldman at moc.o1575790451ohay@1575790451remer1575790451klh1575790451.
General information on the Little Flowers Girls Clubs, and related groups for boys and older children, can be found at www.beholdpublications.com.