In Catania, Sicily, home of St. Agatha, this night lighted processions will parade through the city to honor their city’s patron. St. Agatha suffered extreme and protracted torture as a martyr in the year 251. Her story of faithful witness can strengthen us in our daily journeys and for those who’ve suffered with breast cancer.
St. Agatha’s story
St. Agatha was a beautiful young woman born to a wealthy family in Sicily. She caught the attention of many suitors, and dismissed all with a pledge of perpetual virginity in a life dedicated to Christ. A Roman of high rank, named Quintian, set out to have her, despite her resistance. He brought her before Christian persecutors to have her tortured and killed. She merely stated:
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.
Quintian then had her imprisoned in a brothel, where she was sexually assaulted and demeaned – for some time. Then he had her thrown back in prison for more tortures. Miracles attest to healings that happened between these torture sessions. The torture turned to sadistic brutality when Quintian had her breasts cut off. Agatha merely repeated:
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.
A tradition developed of carrying two loaves of bread on a platter in honor of St. Agatha’s feast day, a symbolic representation of her breasts linked to the Bread of Life.
St. Agatha, Patron Saint of Breast Cancer
St. Agatha has been gathered up as the patron saint of breast cancer. One in eight American women is expected to develop breast cancer this year, according to current rates. Some 40,000 women are expected to die of breast cancer this year. Your chance of getting breast cancer doubles if you have anyone in your blood line with the disease. And yet, 70-80% of women develop breast cancer with no family legacy. The greatest risk factors are two: being a woman and getting older. As of 2010 statistics there are an estimated 2.5 million breast cancer survivors.
Yet there are other causes of breast cancer which are not discussed in the mainstream media, like abortion and oral contraceptives. Read this excellent article from Priests for Life, Fr. Pavone. These are messages we can share with young women and men to help change the statistics.
The culture of death hangs on the claims of privacy. Well, the culture of life starts with each individual and the private decisions we have to make. St. Agatha led a life of complete commitment to consistent principles. She did not waver in her choices based on expediency or fear; she held the course despite extreme suffering.
And we know that women with breast cancer suffer tremendously. Their families suffer. Their marriages endure extreme trials. Let’s pray today for all those women who have had to endure the trial of breast cancer. And let’s ask St. Agatha to bless the families of those who did not survive.
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.