Little is known about the daily life of St. Agatha, an early Christian martyr of the 3rd century, but her death is remembered because it was a most memorable martyrdom.
Agatha was a beautiful and much courted adolescent who died for her faith when she was about 20 years old. At the time, the Roman Emperor Decius had issued an edict that required all citizens of Rome to offer sacrifice to the gods, for which they would receive a certificate that authenticated their allegiance to the empire and the pagan deities.
Disobedience to the order would mean torture and, if the dissenter still refused obedience, execution.
A local Roman magistrate took a different spin on the edict and told Agatha that if she would have sex with him, he would dispense with the emperor’s edict in her case.
As a faithful Christian, Agatha refused the sinful exchange, and for that she was imprisoned, beaten and subject to excruciating torture that eventually involved the shearing off of her breasts.
In the midst of her suffering she reportedly said, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” She is often depicted in art with her breasts on a plate, and it is because of this episode that she is considered the patron saint of all who suffer with breast cancer or other illness and discomforts of the breast.
Agatha eventually died in prison and her name is immortalized in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, where she is recalled among the early martyrs of the Church.
Other patron saints against breast cancer are St. Aldegundis, St. Giles, and St. Peregrine. St. Zelie Martin is also a popular saint to invoke as it is believed that she died from breast cancer.
Pause for a moment to pray for all those suffering from breast cancer. Below is a traditional prayer to St. Agatha that may be used for this intention.
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. And, 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.
5 Practical parenting tips from Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin