"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

St. Agatha

St. Agatha

Born: 231 AD in Palermo or Catania, Sicily

Martyred: 251 AD in Catania

Canonized: Pre-congregation by tradition confirmed by Gregory I

Feast Day: February 5th

Patronage: Bell-founders; breast cancer; breast disease; Sicily; Catania, Italy; against fire; earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; fire prevention; jewellers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; Palermo, Italy; rape victims; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wet-nurses; Zamarramala, Spain.

In the eyes of the world, at 20 years of age, Agatha had accomplished nothing. But in the eyes of God, she bore witness to heaven’s reality in a manner seldom seen by the eyes of men. For as is made evident by means of her name being mentioned following the consecration of the Most Holy Eucharist in the Roman Canon, St. Agatha remains one of the most highly venerated Virgins and Martyrs of the Catholic Church.

It is believed that she was born around the year 231 in one of two cities in Sicily that claim to have rights over her birthplace: Palermo and Catania. It is said that as a young teenage girl of 15, she chose to consecrate her virginity to Christ and to have Him as her spouse. Truly, Agatha lived out her teenage years experiencing that which our Lord’s Sixth Beatitude promises to all who make His words their own: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).

What a contrast we have in the life choice of Agatha and the life choices commonly being presented to our younger generation when it comes to bearing witness to the virtue of chastity, of purity of heart, and of love for Christ above the passing pleasures of our fallen nature. Truth be told, Agatha was introduced to Christ by means of faithful Christians who surrounded her during her formative years. They taught her that which St. Augustine discovered for himself only later on in life: “Our hearts are restless, oh Lord, until they rest in you.” It is a call and a reminder for parents, relatives, and all Christian communities to do our part in introducing the Lord of life to children and teenagers during their formative years in order to help them discover for themselves the inexpressible joy of “loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).

The peace and love that once surrounded Agatha’s life passed through a time of great trial when, “accused of being a Christian, she was dragged before the heathen judge, Quintianus. This villain endeavored, by all manner of mean artifices, to overcome her chaste mind and her courage. But, like unto a lock in the ocean, the virgin remained unmoved and unshaken; as the dust beneath her feet, she accounted all that the world could offer.”[1]

St. Peter miraculously healing Agatha

While actual details of what transpired for Agatha stand in the realm of legends passed down from one generation to the next, it is believed that following her resolve not to deny her faith in Christ, Quintianus sent her to a brothel in the hope that it would force her to deny her faith. “Because she remained steadfast in her resolve, her breasts were cut off, but she was subsequently healed when St. Peter appeared to her in prison. A few days later, she underwent further tortures, and as a result of these, she died.”[2]

While it’s difficult for us to imagine what life must’ve been like for Agatha and the early Christians of the first centuries, her heroic witness reminds us of the incredible amount of grace that heaven will shower upon a soul that takes to heart the words of Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

“St. Agatha gave herself without reserve to Jesus Christ; she followed Him in virginal purity, and then looked to Him for protection. And down to this day Christ has shown His tender regard for the very body of St. Agatha. Again and again, during the eruption of Mount Etna, the people of Catania have exposed her veil for public veneration, and found safety by this means; and in modern times, on opening the tomb in which her body lies waiting for the resurrection, they beheld the skin still entire, and felt the sweet fragrance which issued from this temple of the Holy Ghost.”[3]

All of us, regardless of our state in life, are called to purity of heart. For by means of baptism, we have become living temples of the Holy Spirit, commissioned and sent out into our world to emanate the pleasing fragrance of heaven’s presence on earth.

I leave you with the opening prayer offered up by the Church on February 5th as we celebrate the life witness of St. Agatha.

Fr. Jerome Lavigne

Collect

May the Virgin Martyr Saint Agatha

implore your compassion for us, O Lord, we pray,

for she found favor with you

by the courage of her martyrdom

and the merit of her chastity.[4]

 

 

Footnotes

[1] The Saints of The Canon Of The Mass By Rev. Nicholas Gihr From: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 1918 Reprinted from The Catholic Voice.  https://www.sanctamissa.org/en/spirituality/saints-in-the-roman-canon.pdf

[2] Tylenda, J. N. (2003). Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year (p. 30). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

[3] Shea, J. G. (1887). Pictorial Lives of the Saints (p. 81). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Benziger Brothers.

[4] The Roman Missal: Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II. (2011). (Third Typical Edition, p. 823). Washington D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

 

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