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Monday, December 13, 2010

Saint Lucy Of Syracuse

Today is the commemoration of Saint Lucy, a 4th century virgin who was martyred because she refused to marry a pagan guy. Here's a synopsis from

Her rejected pagan bridegroom, Paschasius, denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily. The governor sentenced her to forced prostitution, but when guards sent to fetch her, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. The governor ordered her killed instead. After torture that included having her eyes torn out, she was surrounded by bundles of wood which were set afire; they went out. She prophesied against her persecutors, and was executed by being stabbed to death with a dagger. Her name is listed in the prayer “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” in the Canon of the Mass.

Legend says her eyesight was restored before her death. This and the meaning of her name led to her connection with eyes, the blind, eye trouble, etc.

Curiously, St Lucy is also the patroness of salesmen - my occupation, as it so happens. I've been selling in the packaging industry for over 15 years now. You might think - what does have a 4th century virgin martyr have do with sales?

I'm glad you asked. I've given that a little bit of thought...

First, there's the reference to forced prostitution. Now you might be thinking about the stereotypical randy milkman soirees or the door-to-door vacuum cleaner hawker rendezvous of days gone by. Although...years ago, a general manager at one of my company's competitors was caught in flagrante delicto with a tooling supplier's female salesperson, in exchange for more favorable the 'prostitution' thing is apropos. Turns out they both got fired.

Actually, I'm thinking of the "doing anything to get the sale" attitude that involves keeping ones clothes on. That can take different forms - gifts, tickets to sporting events, etc. - and the disreputable actions of a few can sometimes mar the reputation of the many. Things nowadays aren't as blatant, but still - it can be a good thing to call upon St Lucy to stand firm on principle and ethics and not give in to the temptation to sell oneself along with the product.

Second - the bit about a team of oxen being unable to move her, and how the death by fire was an epic fail. Heh - have you ever tried to get rid of a salesman, either the telemarketing sort or the vulturous kind at a furniture store? We can be a persistent lot - like maggots on meat. One of the nicest compliments I received from a customer was that she considered me to be "pleasantly persistent" - not overbearing or in-your-face, but considerate and mindful. I've made it a point to treat my customers the way I like to be treated - available when needed, but not a nuisance and in the way. So being persistent and steadfast are important traits - and sticking to principle at all times goes without saying.

Third - having her eyes gouged out. Ouch. Sometimes it's easy to "look the other way", regardless of one's profession, but especially in sales, when it means getting that order or keeping the customer. It's never right to be blind to problems or unethical behavior - whether it's others or our own (especially when it's our own). I need to be aware of always doing the right thing - and sometimes that might mean losing a customer, or leaving a company over their unethical business practices - which I've had to do once.

Sales is a hard job - very competitive, and at times, extremely cutthroat - and considering the economic times (and the fact I live in Michigan), it's even more cutthroat. Still - regardless of the conditions, behaving morally and ethically must be the foundation, and that is best achieved by holding fast to the virtues espoused by the saints and taught by the Church.

Of course, that is all my opinion on why St Lucy is the patroness of salesmen. If anyone knows why she was chosen for that role, I'd love to hear about it!

St Lucy of Syracuse, ora pro nobis!

*Update* - commenter Robert thought I should have used the following image of St Lucy. What do you think?