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St. Agatha

St. Agatha by Br. Arturo Olivas, OFS

Artist Narrative:

St. Agatha was a 3rd century Sicilian martyr of noble birth. According to legend she refused the solicitations of the pagan Roman senator Quinctanius who had her tortured for being a Christian. The Romans cut off her breasts and raked her over fiery coals. At this point an earthquake shook the town of Catania and Agatha was returned to prison where she died.

St. Agatha is the patron of women who suffer from breast ailments including breast cancer. She is also patron of bell makers and protects against volcanic eruptions.

Her feast day is February 5.

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We have little reliable information about this martyr, who has been honored 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' 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. Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake stuck. In the destruction, the magistrate's friend 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.

Born: In prison at Catania or Palermo, Sicily

Died: Martyred c.250 at Catania, Sicily by being rolled on coals.

Name Meaning: Good

Readings:

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