Sunday, January 31, 2010

St. Agatha, February 5th

St Agatha, whose name appears in the Canon of the Mass, was one of the most highly venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity (she is listed in the earliest martyrologies from the fifth century), but many of  the details of her history have been lost to time.

It is generally accepted that Agatha was the daughter of a noble family well known for her beauty. A Roman Senator, a pagan named Quintianus, sought her hand in marriage but Agatha, a devout Christian, refused his advances. In an attempt to corrupt Agatha and therefore incline her mind toward him, Quintianus used his political power to put Agatha in the charge of an evil woman, but instead of turning Agatha to evil ways, the woman was, herself, converted to Christianity by her charge.

Enraged at the turn of events, Quintianus had Agatha arrested for her profession of Faith and subjected her to tortures designed to turn her heart and mind against Christianity. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. She is therefore often depicted in church art carrying her excised breasts on a platter.

Most legends account for her death due to these wounds, though one legend says she lived through the ordeal, but her scorned lover eventually sentenced her to death by being burnt at the stake. While some legends say she died in that fire, other legends say she was saved from this fate by a mysterious earthquake, and that she later died in prison. All, however, agree that Agatha martyrdom included great suffering.

She is the patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from a Turkish invasion in 1551. In modern times, St. Agatha is invoked as the patroness against breast cancer.

Miscellaneous Interesting Facts
 About the Feastday

* The memory of St. Agatha is especially honored by the Order of the Collar of St. Agatha,
* "The Basques have a tradition of gathering on St. Agatha’s Eve and going round the village, stopping at houses along the route. Homeowners can choose to hear a song about her life, accompanied by the beats of their walking sticks or a prayer for those deceased in the house. After that, the homeowner donates food to the chorus." (
*  An annual festival to commemorate the life of St. Agatha takes place in Catania, Sicily, from Feb 3-5. The patron saint of Catania, St. Agatha's feast is celebrated with a 2-day procession, said to be the second largest religious procession in the world. During the procession, Saint Agatha's statue is carried in a 40,000 pound silver carriage.  Hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents turn out.


Prayer to Saint Agatha

O Heavenly Father,
Who raised Agatha
to the dignity of Sainthood,
we implore Your Divine Majesty
by her intercession
to give us health of mind,
body and soul.
Free us from all those things
which hold us bound to this earth,
and let our spirit, like hers,
rise to your heavenly courts.
Through Jesus Christ,Your Son, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with You, forever. Amen.

Celebrating the Feastday
* Catholic Cuisine has a recipe for traditional St. Agatha rolls for this day.
* Click, Copy and print for a coloring page: