–Saint Peter Healing Agatha, by the Caravaggio-follower Giovanni Lanfranco, ca 1614
Born in Catania, Sicily, in the early third century, young, beautiful and rich, Agatha wanted to live a life consecrated to God.
When the Roman Emperor announce edicts against the Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit from Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her.
When she refused his offer, he handed her over to a brothel. After she had suffered a month of sexual assault and humiliation in the brothel and again rejected Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off.
She told her torturer, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare mutilate me this way?”
Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake struck. In the destruction, the magistrate’s friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died in 251 AD.
St Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims and of those who suffer with breast cancer.
Prayer to St Agatha
Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault, indignity, and torture because of your faith. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexual assault and protect those women who are in danger; give strength also to all women and their families who suffer the scourge of breast cancer. Amen.
-The martyrdom of Saint Agatha,Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1750, oil on canvas, 184 x 131 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany
-The Martyrdom of Agatha, by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519, Palazzo Pitti, oil on panel, 127 × 178 cm, commissioned by Ercole Ragone to celebrate his elevation to the cardinalate; his titular church was Sant’Agata dei Goti.
“Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am – you alone. I am your sheep; make me worthy to overcome the devil.” – Saint Agatha
“Lord, my creator, you have protected me since I was in the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my spirit.” – Saint Agatha
“My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr‘s feast has brought us together. Agatha achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory. For her, Christ’s death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. Agatha, the name of our saint, means “good.” She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and her way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good, God alone.” – from a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily