St Agatha, Virgin & Martyr – 05 February
We have little reliable information about this martyr, who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus’s advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that Saint Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake stuck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.
Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
St Agatha was born in prison at Catania or Palermo, Sicily and was martyred c.250 at Catania by being rolled on coals.
Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am – you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil. – Saint Agatha
Lord, my creator, you have protected me since I was in the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my spirit. – Saint Agatha
My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr‘s feast has brought us together. Agatha achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and her way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good, God alone. – from a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily.