The Catholic Defender: The Saint Agatha Story
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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