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Last Word: Oranges on St. Lucy's Day

Image: whole and sliced orangesby Monsignor Gaspar Ancona
 
One of the lovely customs I grew up with in a Sicilian-American home was to have arancini as the centerpiece of the evening meal on the feast of St. Lucy, Dec. 13. These are rice balls, but because they look like oranges after they are deep fried, they acquired the name for oranges in Italian, arancini. Some are stuffed with small portions of ground meat, mozzarella cheese and a touch of tomato sauce; others have peas and cheese hidden inside. They are eaten hot, cold or at room temperature. These days, they have even become a street food in some Italian cities and are enjoyed year-round.
 
Missing from the Sicilian table on St. Lucy's Day are any foods made from wheat. This is thought to be a considerable sacrifice, as Italians love homemade breads and pastas. The arancini, however, are more than tasty enough to distract from the absence of bread or pasta from the table.
 
How did St. Lucy gain the distinction of presiding over these culinary developments? She was martyred for her Christian faith in the 300s. Centuries later, during a punishing wheat famine in her native Sicily, large ships filled with grain arrived on her feast day in the ports of Sicily, breaking the famine. A grateful people have honored her ever since.
 
Seeing God present and at work in our lives during times of danger or grave insecurity, as well as during times of safety and prosperity, is a serious challenge to our faith.
 
When we are aware that we belong to a great family of Christ-followers who have given witness to him in the midst of every kind of human condition, we take hope that, with the Lord's help, we too can rise to
the demands of any occasion.
 
Not because we are vain enough to believe in our own powers, but because with St. Paul – and St. Lucy – we can do all things in the One who strengthens us. Even the humble, tasty arancini can teach us that lesson.
 
Image: photo of Msgr. AnconaMonsignor Ancona is a retired priest of the diocese. He was ordained on June 1, 1963. He is an accomplished pastor, teacher, author, spiritual director and preacher.