Saint Agatha’s Story
Patron Saint of
Diseases of the Breast
As in the case of Agnes, another virgin-martyr of the early Church, almost nothing is historically certain about this saint except that she was martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251.
Legend has it that Agatha, like Agnes, was arrested as a Christian, tortured, and sent to a house of prostitution to be mistreated. She was preserved from being violated, and was later put to death.
She is claimed as the patroness of both Palermo and Catania. The year after her death, the stilling of an eruption of Mt. Etna was attributed to her intercession. As a result, apparently, people continued to ask her prayers for protection against fire.
The scientific modern mind winces at the thought of a volcano’s might being contained by God because of the prayers of a Sicilian girl. Still less welcome, probably, is the notion of that saint being the patroness of such varied professions as those of foundry workers, nurses, miners and Alpine guides. Yet, in our historical precision, have we lost an essential human quality of wonder and poetry, and even our belief that we come to God by helping each other, both in action and prayer?
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