Friday, January 29, 2010

Saint Agatha (d. 251) (Feb. 5)

By Peter Scagnelli

“Of noble birth and great beauty,” so the ancient accounts describe Saint Agatha, martyred during an early persecution for refusing a powerful Roman’s offer of marriage, since she had consecrated her virginity to Christ.

An early preacher, St. Methodius, reflects instead on her name, noting that, in Greek, Agatha means “good,” goodness being something we can all strive for, nobly born or common, blessed with beauty—or not! So brutal the tortures that violated her youthful innocence, Agatha, like Agnes and several other women martyrs, was honored from time immemorial by having her name inscribed in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I).

Long invoked as protector against earthquakes — Mount Etna erupted as she was being tortured — recent attention has focused on the particularly cruel torture decreed for Agatha, the cutting off of her breasts. This has inspired cancer survivors to promote St. Agatha as patron and intercessor for women courageously facing breast cancer, for their families and the multitude of supporters who participate in fund-raising marches and races, and, of course, for the dedicated researchers who seek a cure.

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