Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Agatha has been honored since ancient times, and her name is included in the canon of the Mass. We have little reliable information about her, except that she was a martyr. The following is according to her Latin Acts which is from around the sixth century.

Saint Agatha was a young, wealthy and beautiful woman who lived a life consecrated to God. When the Roman Emperor Decius (Caius Messius Quintus Trajanus Decius 249-251) announced his edicts against Christians, the Roman magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha's sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. 

Saint Agatha was handed over to a brothel, but she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus' advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. One version says that Saint Peter appeared to her and healed her. She was imprisoned further and rolled onto live coals. She was near death when an earthquake struck. In the earthquake the magistrate's friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died. Her death occurred around 250 A.D.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is also reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551. Her popular veneration is of a very early date; her name occurs in the prayer, "Nobis quoque peccatoribus," in the Canon of the Mass, and in some places bread is blessed after the Consecration of the Mass on her feast and called Agatha bread.
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