Saint Agatha (born unknown, deceased 251), Virgin Martyr of the Church. Like Saint Agnes, Saint Agatha endured torture, imprisonment, persecution, and death at a very young age, all the while withstanding the pressure of society and those in power to conform. Rather, she dedicated her life, her heart, and her entire body to Christ, willingly suffering for Him and witnessing to many in the process. She is one of seven women, excluding Mary, Our Blessed Mother and Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
Agatha grew into a beautiful and pure young woman, who attracted the attention of many suitors, some quite powerful. She refused each, firm in her devotion to her Lord. One such suitor, the magistrate Quinctianus, looked to use the active persecution of Christians to his advantage, attempting to blackmail the young Agatha into marrying him. If she refused him, she would be imprisoned and tried as a Christian, an enemy of the Emperor Decius. Agatha refused, and was imprisoned, first in a brothel where she survived for a month without losing her purity. Brought back before Quinctianus, Agatha was observed to pray, rather than be afraid. She prayed, "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil."
"Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?" In early artistic renderings, Saint Agatha is oftentimes seen carrying her severed breasts on a silver tray. She is currently the patron saint of those with breast cancer.
"Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul." She died shortly thereafter, having been again imprisoned.
Saint Agatha inspires us to look beyond our physical selves to a much deeper communion with the Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the Saints. Even in her most desperate of times, maimed and tortured, she remained pure and virtuous, beautiful of faith and spirit, and courageous of will. Agatha’s interior world, a world consecrated to the Lord, was never touched by the cruelty of those who persecuted her. Her reliance on Jesus is remarkable given her age and that which she endured. Her sufferings make our daily complaints seem somewhat insignificant upon reflection, and yet, even with our difficulties, we have a hard time turning to God, putting our faith in Him, and trusting in His plan and protection. Perhaps that is the message of Saint Agatha—complete love and trust for the Lord, acceptance of His will, and embracing of human suffering for Him.
On a personal note, having just marked the anniversary of the death of a dear friend to cancer, Saint Agatha’s patronage of those fighting breast cancer is both poignant and timely. I pray to Saint Agatha for her intercession for all those affected by breast cancer—survivors, those currently struggling, and those who have been overcome, as well as their caregivers, families, and friends. Intercede for us, Saint Agatha. Bring comfort and healing!