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COURAGEOUS WOMAN TO HELP US BEAR OUR CROSSES BRAVELY

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Saint Agatha

As a beautiful rich heiress Agatha attracted much attention but from a very early age she had chosen to be a consecrated Christian virgin. In third century Sicily, however, when Christians lived under the threat of persecution, the Roman Consul, Quintilianus, had designs on her. In an attempt to force her into submission she was arrested and imprisoned. This proved to be the beginning of her martyrdom.

Quintilianus spared no cruelty in his efforts to subdue her. He placed her in a house of prostitution to try to destroy her virginity. But Agatha's prayers and perseverance kept her safe. When Quintilianus saw her determination he was amazed and angry, and decided to punish her.

He imprisoned Agatha and had her tortured. Throughout her ordeal she suffered the pain without complaint, saying that Jesus Christ was her strength. She prayed constantly, and she was comforted by a vision of St Peter who had been visited in prison by an angel, and who himself came to console Agatha. Her prison cell was filled with light and her wounds were miraculously healed.

This should have convinced Quintilianus of Agatha's faith and the truth of her religion but he was not impressed. It only made him more determined to destroy her. He ordered her to be tortured again, by rolling her over burning coals, after which she died in her prison cell.

Agatha's life ended in the year 251, around 50 years before St. Lucy, with whom she is associated in the First Eucharistic prayer. Hers was a short life but those who knew Agatha must have been struck by her dedication, faith and patient suffering. Learning about her life should inspire us to renew our dedication to the Lord. What we have to endure will never match her sufferings and we ask her to help us bear our crosses bravely. We pray for those who consecrate their lives in virginity to the Lord and to ask her to help those who practise prostitution to reform their lives. Saint Agatha is honoured today as a virgin and martyr of the Church, and her help is invoked against fire and lightning.