By Tim Harfmann
Father Jamie Dennis doesn’t prepare for Mass like other Catholic priests. He needs help because he’s lost almost all of his eyesight. “It’s like looking through a straw. That’s what I have left. And what I can see through that is not clear at all,” said Father Dennis.
But that didn’t stop him from celebrating a special Mass at Saint Francis Xavier Church in Chelsea. It was the feast day of Saint Lucy — patron saint of the visually impaired. A Kentucky priest, Father Dennis traveled to New York to honor the fourth-century Italian saint. After having her eyes ripped out for being Catholic, it is believed Saint Lucy was still able to see. She was tortured and died a martyr for the faith. “Her name means light, so she’s also a light pointing to the greater light of Christ for us,” said Father Dennis.
During the liturgy, the priest used braille books to follow along. The Xavier Society for the Blind provided them. For over a century, the nonprofit organization gives free braille and audio books so thousands of Catholics across the united states and 20 other countries can grow closer to Christ. Members of the faithful in the pews for Mass also used the braille. “It really embodies what we do because folks are able to witness our clients, our patrons, using our materials to practice their faith,” said Malachy Fallon. He’s the executive director of the society.
Sharlene Kraft is a lector. She’s legally blind and a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows, Queens. “If there’s something I can do that benefits the Church, that’s good. Xavier allows me to do that. Without Xavier, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the way I do,” said Kraft.
Twelve-year-old Mara Hug also uses braille books so she can serve at the altar. “It’s easier to read so I can focus more on the serving.” Hug prays to Saint Lucy and plans to take the name Lucy when she receives the sacrament of confirmation next year.
Following Mass, Hug and other worshipers venerated a sacred relic, touching and kissing a piece of Saint Lucy.
For the blind, their patron saint guides them.