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 Post subject: St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 2:39 am 
St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena
A world unto itself, conveying a sense of spirit

Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and Kumudu Amarasingham visit St. Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena

St. Lucy may have led a very sad life, but her church in Colombo cannot but bring happiness, or at the very least peace, to anyone who steps into the compound. It is a world unto itself, and conveys that sense of spirit, purpose and joy, that only the most blessed of places can, in these times of turmoil.

Built in 1760 by the Dutch, it is the earliest recorded church in Sri Lanka. The archives of recorded baptisms go back to 1763.

It was founded by the Oratorain fathers in Goa, India, and for many years was under the Bishop of Goa. In 1779 the Dutch regime donated seven acres of land and in 1782, Father Nicholas Rodriguez began constructing a bigger church out of brick and mortar. According to records, people flocked to the church for safety during the battle between the Dutch and British before the British captured Ceylon. Around this time Father Vincent de Rozairo established the first school in the island in Kotahena.

In 1834 Pope Gregory VI detached Ceylon from Goa and Fr. Vincent Rozairo was formerly established at St. Lucia’s as Vicar Apostle of Ceylon. The church became a Cathedral in 1846.

The name cathedral was derived from the Latin word ‘cathedra,’ meaning chair and the church where the bishop’s chair was placed became a cathedral.

In 1852 a foundation stone was laid for a new and bigger cathedral. By this time, five schools were under the supervision of the church. In 1863 the Christian Brothers arrived in Sri Lanka to start St. Benedict’s College and the Sisters of Good Shepherd arrived to form Good Shepherd’s Convent, Kotahena. Both are amongst the oldest educational institutions in the country.

Around this time money was collected to build and expand the church. explained Very Rev. Fr. M. W. Placidus De Silva: "At the time the church took just rupees four lakhs to construct and each family contributed 10 cents". "Today I need Rs. 35 million to renovate it," he added, smiling. The church is 138 years old, and has three archbishops buried in it.

The three feasts celebrated are the Feast of Our Lady at the end of May, Corpus Christi in June and the Feast of St. Lucy in December.

The church is also affiliated to the Society of Vincent de Paul, inaugurated in September 1904, a body that helps the poor and needy. Since 1943 the cathedral has also held a Red Mass for Catholic judges and lawyers. On December 27 the Feast of the Innocents in memory of the massacre of the innocents, is commemorated, with little children getting gifts and hampers on the day.

The cathedral’s dome was damaged in the 1942 Japanese bombing, for which proper repairs were begun just last Sunday. The company that was assigned the task in 1956 did not restore the original dome, Fr. Placidus said. In 1962, a radio electronic lab was brought to St. Lucia’s Cathedral by Fr. Ignatius Perera

An enchanting place, modelled after St. Peter’s in Rome, the cathedral is as rich in history as it is in spirituality. On January 20, 1995 Pope John Paul II met with the bishops and clergy at a ceremony at St. Lucia’s Cathedral to beatify Fr. Joseph Vaz.

St. Lucy

A virgin and martyr of Syracuse in Sicily, St. Lucy’s feast is celebrated by Latins and Greeks alike on December 13.

According to the traditional story, she was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283. Her father was of Roman origin, but his early death left her dependent upon her mother, whose name, Eutychia, seems to indicate that she came of Greek stock.

Like so many of the early martyrs, Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God, and she hoped to devote all her worldly goods to the service of the poor. Her mother was not so single-minded, but an occasion offered itself when Lucy could carry out her generous resolutions.

The fame of the virgin-martyr Agatha, who had been executed 52 years before in the Decian persecution, was attracting numerous visitors to her relics at Catania, not 50 miles from Syracuse, and many miracles had been wrought through her intercession. Eutychia was therefore persuaded to make a pilgrimage to Catania, in the hope of being cured of a hæmorrhage, from which she had been suffering for several years. There she was in fact cured, and Lucy, availing herself of the opportunity, persuaded her mother to allow her to distribute a great part of her riches among the poor.

The largess stirred the greed of the unworthy youth to whom Lucy had been unwillingly betrothed, and he denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Sicily. It was in the year 303, during the fierce persecution of Diocletian. She was first of all condemned to suffer the shame of prostitution; but in the strength of God she stood immovable, so that they could not drag her away to the place of shame. Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, and again God saved her. Finally, she met her death by the sword. But before she died she foretold the punishment of Paschasius and the speedy termination of the persecution, adding that Diocletian would reign no more, and Maximian would meet his end. So, strengthened with the Bread of Life, she won her crown of virginity and martyrdom.

This beautiful story cannot unfortunately be accepted without criticism. The details may be only a repetition of similar accounts of a virgin martyr’s life and death. Moreover, the prophecy was not realised, if it required that Maximian should die immediately after the termination of his reign. Paschasius, also, is a strange name for a pagan to bear. However, since there is no other evidence by which the story may be tested, it can only be suggested that the facts peculiar to the saint’s story deserve special notice.

Among these, the place and time of her death can hardly be questioned; for the rest, the most notable are her connexion with St. Agatha and the miraculous cure of Eutychia, and it is to be hoped that these have not been introduced by the pious compiler of the saint’s story or a popular instinct to link together two national saints. The story, such as we have given it, is to be traced back to the Acta, and these probably belong to the fifth century. Though they cannot be regarded as accurate, there can be no doubt of the great veneration that was shown to St. Lucy by the early church. She is one of those few female saints whose names occur in the canon of St. Gregory, and there are special prayers and antiphons for her in his Sacramentary and Antiphonary.

She is also commemorated in the ancient Roman Martyrology. St. Aldhelm (d. 709) is the first writer who uses her Acts to give a full account of her life and death. This he does in prose in the Tractatus de Laudibus Virginitatis (Tract. xliii, P. L., LXXXIX, 142) and again, in verse, in the poem De Laudibus Virginum (P. L., LXXXIX, 266). Following him, the Venerable Bede inserts the story in his Martyrology.

With regard to her relics, Sigebert (1030-1112), a monk of Gembloux, in his sermo de Sancta Lucia, says that her body lay undisturbed in Sicily for 400 years, before Faroald, Duke of Spoleto, captured the island and transferred the saint’s body to Corfinium in Italy.

Thence it was removed by the Emperor Otho I, 972, to Metz and deposited in the church of St. Vincent. And it was from this shrine that an arm of the saint was taken to the monastery of Luitburg in the Diocese of Spires—an incident celebrated by Sigebert himself in verse.

The subsequent history of the relics is not clear. On their capture of Constantinople in 1204, the French found some of the relics in that city, and the Doge of Venice secured them for the monastery of St. George at Venice. In the year 1513 the Venetians presented to Louis XII of France the head of the saint, which he deposited in the cathedral church of Bourges.

Another account, however, states that the head was brought to Bourges from Rome whither it had been transferred during the time when the relics rested in Corfinium.

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