St. Agatha spurned the love of a Roman senator, and died for it

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St. Agatha
Francisco de Zurbarán, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Agatha

Feast day: February 5

St. Agatha is venerated as one of the foremost mothers of the early Church. She was a virgin martyr who died for professing her faith in Catania, Sicily likely during the persecution of Decius (250-253). Both Catania and Palermo, Italy claim to be her birthplace. Although the martyrdom of St. Agatha is authenticated and there are many examples of her public veneration spreading even in antiquity beyond her native place, the specific details of her courageous life are inconclusive.

Nevertheless, what has been passed down since the sixth century is that St. Agatha was a beautiful woman from a distinguished family who spurned the love of a Roman politician, Senator Quintianus, due to her consecrated virginity. Since she rejected his overtures to her, Quintianus had Agatha subjected to various cruel tortures, to include having her breasts cut off. Yet, St. Agatha remained firm in her Christian faith despite being charged as an evil and seductive woman. She found strength in praying to St. Peter the Apostle, who reportedly healed her. Being repeatedly and cruelly tortured, eventually St. Agatha succumbed.

In our increasingly secular world, St. Agatha is a shining light of hope for those negatively impacted by the non-Christian culture. Her very strong faith encourages all of us to not readily give in to the perverse sexuality common today, similar to that lived in the Roman Empire. Despite the high-level slander leveled at her and the subsequent tortures, St. Agatha fought hard and called on the first vicar of Christ, St. Peter, for healing. We can include her in our daily prayers to have the strength to stand up publicly to a promiscuous culture that disregards our Christian faith. She is also a role model for all women as she strove to preserve her dignity and insisted on pursuing the vocation in Christ to which she felt called. This magnanimous faith of St. Agatha is honored each year by the Church on Feb. 5.

St. Agatha is considered the patron saint of breast cancer patients, rape victims, fire nurses and natural disasters. Throughout the area of Mount Etna, she is prayed to as an intercessor against the eruptions of the volcano and elsewhere against fire and lightning. At some churches, bread and water are blessed during Mass on her feast day after the consecration and called “Agatha bread.”


O Lord, help all women to remember their dignity as your daughters of the most high King. May we always know that you and your angels and saints are with us to defend us against those who can harm us. Keep us firm in the vocation to which you are calling us. Give us the courage today, dear Lord, to speak up in defense of what is right.


May the Virgin Martyr Saint Agatha
implore your compassion for us, O Lord, we pray,
for she found favor with you
by the courage of her martyrdom
and the merit of her chastity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Maryella Hierholzer

Maryella Hierholzer is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and did graduate work at Georgetown University. After concluding a career in the Washington area, she is now retired in Indiana where she is a teacher of adult and youth faith formation at her parish. She is also a volunteer at Catholic Charities in Fort Wayne.