The Catholic Defender: The Saint Agatha Story
As in the case of Agnes, another virgin-martyr of the early Church, almost nothing is historically certain about this saint except that she was martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251.
Agatha, like Agnes, was arrested as a Christian, tortured, and sent to a house of prostitution to be mistreated. She was preserved from being violated, and was later put to death.
The Roman World in 231 A.D. was a time of darkness that seemed to cover the whole land. Yet, despite this the Light of Christ was blazing trails throughout the Roman Empire.
The Catholic Faith was growing underground despite great oppression.
Out of the Roman world, civilization was ruled by the Roman Caesars who claimed to be a god. Pagan religions were commonly accepted as long as they recognized the Caesars claim to be their lord. This was a serious issue to the Catholic faith who recognized the one true God, the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church recognized Jesus Christ to be the one true God/Man. The Roman law forbade Christianity because of this fact.
In January 250 A.D. the Roman Emperor Decius made the edict forcing all the inhabitants throughout the Roman Empire to offer sacrifice to Pagan gods and his image in the witness of the local Magistrates. Once the sacrifice was given then a certificate was drafted showing such worship was offered. Such loyalty to the Caesars were demanded and retribution was swift to those who refused.
Christians were often tortured for their refusing such Pagan worship. Many gave their lives for Christ as Jesus foretold in Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Many would be His witnesses throughout the world. Many would be martyrs for the holy faith.
Going back to 231 A.D., twenty years before this infamous edict, a girl was born in a remote part of Sicily to a family of noble standing. This young girl would become one of the most highly honored and venerated virgin martyrs of the early Church.
Raised with nobility, St. Agatha received education from an early age. She developed a strong faith as she listened to the Catholic Priests and lay teachers who braved the persecution. St. Agatha fell in love with Jesus Christ and His Mother, the Virgin Mary. As a child, she decided to dedicate herself to the Lord in a religious life of total dedication.
As she grew older, her beauty made her the object of great interest as several men asked for her hand in marriage but she refused all of them. Finally, a local high diplomat noticed St. Agatha who began making requests for her hand but like all before him, she refused. Quintianus was persistent but to no avail.
It is believed that during the night Saint Peter appeared in her cell, and healed her wounds. Quintianus, now had a horrible hatred of Agatha, and ordered that she be burned on a bed of coals. While she lay burning on the coals her red veil stayed miraculously intact.
St Agatha replied: “God is my life and my salvation.” The governor then put her to the torture, which was executed with barbarous cruelty.
Quintianus then remanded the saint to prison, commanding that her wounds should be left undressed, in order that she might expire under the torture.
But at midnight St. Peter appeared to her in a vision, perfectly cured her wounds, and freed her from all pain; during the entire of that night there appeared in the interior of the prison so resplendent a light that the guards fled in terror, leaving the door of her dungeon open, so that she could have escaped, as the other prisoners advised her, but that she was unwilling, as she said, to lose by flight the crown which was being prepared for her in heaven.
When St Agatha appeared before Quintianus, in order the more easily to overcome her modesty, he gave her up to Aphrodisia, an abominable woman, who, together with her daughters, publicly professed immodesty. In her infamous house the saint suffered greater torture than the darkest and most fetid dungeon could afford. All the arts of Aphrodisia and her partners in crime were unceasingly applied, in order to induce the saint to comply with the wishes of Quintianus; but Agatha, who from her infancy had been consecrated to Jesus Christ, was enabled by his divine grace to overcome all their attempts.
At one point, Quintianus began questioning St. Agatha's motivation as he began to suspect she was a Christian. He accused her and summoned her to his Court as he was a local Judge. Hoping that St. Agatha would cave in to his threats and pressures, she instead listened to the voice of Jesus who called out to her to follow Him and remain strong.
St. Agatha prayed: "O Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, thou seest my heart and knowest my desire, which is to possess only thee, since I have consecrated myself entirely to thee. Preserve me, dear Lord, from this tyrant and enable me to overcome the devil, who layeth snares for my soul."
With tears in her eyes, St. Agatha prayed for courage. Quintianus held no mercy nor compassion for his lust was strong. He wanted to break her will and placed her in a house of ill repute, a known abomination called Aphrodisia and her brothel was all about immodesty. St. Agatha told Quintianus that only in Jesus could she ever be free. This caused much suffering to St. Agatha who was tortured and molested.
After some time, Quintainus summoned St. Agatha back to his Court and wanted her for himself, who happened to have already had a wife. St. Agatha challenged him asking, should his wife be a prostitute like Venus who he worshiped or that he himself be considered an incestuous adulterer like Jupiter? Enraged Quintianus sent her back only to re-summon her the next day.
Quintainus asked St. Agatha if she wanted to save her life, she replied, "God is my life and my salvation." With that, Quintainus, being the wicked judge that he was, had St. Agatha tortured lacerating her breasts and then had them removed.
St. Agatha prayed: "O Lord, my creator, who hast preserved me from my infancy, hast given me strength to overcome these torments and hast taken from me the love of the world, receive now my soul. It is time that I should at last pass from this miserable life to the fruition of thy glory."
Quintainus sent St. Agatha to a prison ordering that no medical attention be rendered to her. She was racked, stretched out on a rack and torn with iron hooks, burned with fire, and then whipped.
Heaven was taking note to what was happening, St. Peter appeared to her offering his prayers for comfort and encouraged her to be strong. Jesus and Mother Mary also appeared there where she was cured by the divine hand of Jesus.
Quintianus was surprized of her miraculous cures but instead of waking up to the true God, he doubled down in his anger having St. Agatha stripped to feast his eyes of lust and then had her thrown over hot burning coals.
The year after her death, the stilling of an eruption of Mt. Etna was attributed to her intercession. As a result, apparently, people continued to ask her prayers for protection against fire.
She was sent to a dungeon to die and some time later the Lord sent an angel to restore and heal her breasts. Quintiamus was filled with rage and furiously directed that Agatha be burned alive. Because of her martyrdom she became the Patron Saint of diseases of the breast for the catholic church.
Back in prison, St. Agatha prayed: "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle, you have taken me from the love of this world, and given me patience to suffer. Receive now my soul." St. Agatha was twenty years old at the time of her death in 251 A.D.
In this young life, this great Saint of God would be the inspiration of countless souls to follow Our Lord and His Mother. St. Lucy would like many others, experience healing through St. Agatha's intercession. St. Jerome would identify her as one of the greatest martyrs who gave her all for the Lord.
Today, St. Agatha is the patron of bell-founders, bakers, breast cancer, against fire, rape victims, and wet nurses. Her Feast day is February 5.
Saint Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims, breast cancer patients, wet nurses, and bellfounders (due to the shape of her severed breasts). She is also considered to be a powerful intercessor when people suffer from fires. Her feast day is celebrated on 5 February.
“O Lord, my Creator, who hast preserved me from infancy, hast given me strength to overcome these torments, and hast taken from me the love of the world, receive now my soul. It is time that I should at last pass from this miserable life to the fruition of Thy glory.”
Just as she had finished these words, she tranquilly expired, and went to be united to God, to praise him and love him forever. This happened in 251. Her name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass.
Story told by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
The incorrupt body of St Agatha was transferred to Constantinople in the 11th century, and then returned to Catania. The body is now preserved in different reliquaries. "The arms, legs, and breasts are preserved in a glass case in an incorrupt condition, although rather dried and dark after more than 17 centuries. The skull and principal relics are at Catania, enclosed in an effigy on which rests a costly jeweled crown. The reliquary consists of the figure of the Saint from the head to the waist and is situated in an upright position. The figure is entirely covered with precious gems, rings, bracelets, pins, chains, and jeweled flowers and crosses..."
St. Agatha, you suffered sexual assault and indignities because of your faith and purity. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger. Amen