Today, February 5th, the universal Church honors St. Agatha, her name meaning “good,” one of the most highly honored virgin martyrs in Christian antiquity.
Agatha lived in the third century, having been born of a wealthy and noble family in Sicily. At some time in her very early life, Agatha dedicated herself to Our Lord Jesus Christ. At or about the age of 15, Agatha spurned the attempted amorous advances of Quintianus, the Roman prefect of Catania. Because of this rejection, Quintianus made sure she was persecuted for her Christian faith. St. Agatha prayed the following prayer before her persecution began:
Jesus Christ, Lord of all, thou seest my heart, thou knowest my desires. Do thou alone possess all that I am. I am thy sheep: make me worthy to overcome the Devil.
Accordingly, he sent Agatha to Aphrodisia, the madame so to speak, of a house of prostitution. Agatha refused to work and present herself as a prostitute because of her pledge to Jesus that she had devoted herself to Him. Quintianus then had her come before him, putting her in prison.
We must keep in mind the fact that this occurred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius, who hated Christianity and Christians. Not only was it his desire to eliminate all Christians by torture and/or death, he wanted to completely eliminate the religion of Christianity. Of course then, this policy was also adopted by the officials of Rome. Quintianus then subjected Agatha to interrogation, wherein all along, Agatha declared that she was the servant of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Quintianus made sure that she was to experience the most hideous and cruel tortures, which included but was not limited to having her breasts cut out. But St. Peter appeared to her consoling her wherein she was miraculously healed. She nevertheless remained in prison.
Before she died, she said this beautiful prayer to Jesus:
Lord, my Creator, thou has always protected me from the cradle; thou has taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive now my soul.
She died in prison in 253 A.D., succumbing to the continual torture and abuse. Our dear St. Agatha is mentioned in the canon of the Mass. In contemporary times, she is known as the patron saint of women who suffer from breast cancer.
Again, we study about a beautiful lady with nerves and a will of steel because she never abandoned her Faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what the torture. What she went through for Jesus we cannot ever imagine. Her loyalty to Our Lord never ceased, which is a quality severely wanting in today’s society. Because of your specific torture dear St. Agatha, I ask your intercession before the Triune God to help all women throughout the world who are suffering from breast cancer; please ask Our Lord to heal them and bring them rest and peace. We honor you today dearest young lady, and pray that in our lives, we will live it with similar loyalty, courage, determination and love!
Sources: One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; Vatican website; Butler’s Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh; Catholic Encyclopedia; Wikipedia