SAINT AGATHA OF SICILY (?-c.251), virgin and martyr – Patroness of martyrs, torture victims, against natural disasters and diseases of the breast
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Agatha, a young woman whose devotion to Jesus and the honor of her purity gave her the strength to endure severe torture and persecution.
Although we have evidence that Agatha was venerated at least as far back as the sixth century, the only facts we have about her are that she was born in Sicily and died there as a martyr in defense of her purity around the year 251 under the Emperor Decius.
Legend tells us that she was born in Catania, Sicily, and when she was young, she dedicated her life to God and resisted the advances of any man who desired to marry her. One of these men, Quintianus, the governor of Sicily, felt he could force her to submit to his demands.
Knowing she was a Christian during a time of persecution, he had her arrested and brought before himself as the magistrate. He expected her to give in to his advances when faced with torture and possible death, but she simply affirmed her belief in God by praying, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, You see my heart; You know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am Your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.”
When she continued to profess her faith in Jesus, Quintianus had her tortured with extreme lacerations of the flesh, especially over her upper body including cutting off her breasts. He refused her any medical care, but the story continues that God gave her all the care she needed in the form of a vision of Saint Peter, who healed her from her serious wounds.
Four days later, Agatha was again led before Quintianus, who was amazed at the miraculous healing of her injuries. Nevertheless, he insisted that she worship the Roman gods, which prompted another confession of her faith in Jesus Christ. Filled with anger, and by his order, she was led to be tortured again. During her torture, more severe than before, the whole city was rocked by a violent earthquake. Out of fear for their lives, Agatha, half dead, was returned to prison.
The legend continues that, while suffering in prison, she offered her dying prayer, “Lord, my Creator, You have always protected me from the cradle; You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my spirit.”
It was said that Agatha was both beautiful and rich; yet, she lived her life consecrated to God. Agatha is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian antiquity, put to death for her steadfast profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
We commemorate her feastday on February 5.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Agatha)
“Lord, let Your forgiveness be won for us by the pleading of Saint Agatha, who found favor with You by her chastity and by her courage in suffering death for the Gospel.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”