I find myself wanting to give a sanitized version of St. Agatha’s life story found in our stained glass window, but the truth is some of our saints have lived difficult and sometimes horrifying lives. I wish I could say these types of stories no longer happen, but the truth is they do. We only have to look to the issues of human and sex trafficking to know that the story and prayers of St. Agatha are still relevant.
Who is St. Agatha?
One of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian antiquity, Agatha was put to death during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Sicily, for her determined profession of faith. She was arrested as a Christian, tortured, and sent to a house of prostitution to be mistreated and ultimately put to death. She is one of seven women, who, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
Saints and their Attributes
Artists have developed standard ways of representing saints, allowing their images to be ‘read’ to reveal their identities. Artists often show saints with particular symbols, known as attributes. These attributes are reminders of how a saint was martyred, while others recall important actions or events from their life. Through attributes we are able to identify the saints and tell their stories.
What are St. Agatha attributes?
Is a universal symbol for Christian martyrdom. St. Agatha was martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251 for refusing the advances of Quintianus, a Roman Senator. He had her arrested, placed in a brothel, tortured and put to death as a Christian.
Quintianus ordered her to be tortured after she refused his advances, even after being imprisoned in a brothel. He then had her stretched on a rack to be torn with iron hooks, burned with torches, and whipped. Noticing Agatha was enduring all the torture with a sense of cheer, he commanded she be subjected to a worse form of torture. He ordered that her breasts be cut off. The pincers represent how her breast were removed.
Patron Saint of:
Prayer to St. Agatha for the Healing of Breast Cancer:
St. Agatha, woman of valor, from your own suffering we have been moved to ask your prayers for those of us who suffer from breast cancer. We place the NAME(S) before you, and ask you to intercede on their behalf. From where you stand in the health of life eternal- all wounds healed, and all tears wiped away- pray for MENTION YOUR REQUEST, and all of us. Pray God will give us His holy benediction of health and healing.
Prayer to St. Agatha for Peace:
We remember you were a victim of torture and that you learned, first hand, of human cruelty and inhumanity. We ask you to pray for our entire world. Ask God to enlighten us with a “genius for peace and understanding.” Ask Him to send us His Spirit of Serenity, and ask Him to help us share that peace with all we meet. From what you learned from your own path of pain, ask God to give us the Grace we need to remain holy in difficulties, not allowing our anger or our bitterness to overtake us. Pray that we will be more peaceful and more charitable. And from your holy pace in our mystical body, the Church, pray that we, in our place and time will, together, create a world of justice and peace. Amen.
To schedule a group docent tour to explore the history, architecture, art, sacred symbols and mission of St. Mary’s Basilica please contact us.