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For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, Third Century
Agatha is another of the early saints about whom most our knowledge is based on legend. She was born in Sicily, either Catania or Palermo, both of which claim her as a patron, and was martyred in Catania, most likely during the persecution of the Roman emperor Decius around the middle of the third century.
Agatha dedicated herself to God and a life of chastity. When she refused the advances of a Roman consul, he denounced her as a Christian and subjected her to torture and indignities to change her mind. But Agatha’s continued dedication to God and her calm acceptance of torture only infuriated her captors. They cut off her breasts and rolled her over red-hot coals until she died.
Early Christian art depicted Agatha holding a tray with her breasts on it. In the middle ages, the breasts were mistaken as two loaves of bread. This led to the custom of blessing bread on St. Agatha’s feast day and bringing the bread to the altar on a tray.
Sometime after her death, an eruption of Mt. Etna was stilled after the people prayed to St. Agatha for intercession. As a result, people have continued to ask St. Agatha to protect them from fire. She is also a patron of nurses, and she could well be an appropriate patron for a woman undergoing a mastectomy.
St. Agatha's memorial is celebrated on February 5.
Agatha's message today: Not many of us have to endure torture today, but all of us do bear distressing pain, whether physical, mental, or emotional, from time to time. Although this practice has been out of favor for a while, we might offer up our suffering to God in reparation for our sins.