“May my courage and my thought be so firmly founded upon the firm stone of Jesus Christ, that for no pain it may not be changed, your words be but wind, your promises be but rain, and your menaces be as rivers that pass.” ~ Saint Agatha
This month’s 1st Friday Devotion brings with it a potpourri of timeless teachings on matters pertaining to hospitality, compassion, marital fidelity, licentiousness https://hubpages.com/hub/On-Licentiousness-and-Life-in-the-Spirit?hubview and gratitude by way of our 1st Reading, taken from the beginning of the 13th Chapter of Hebrews (13:1-8). Today our church also celebrates the Memorial of the fearless young martyr whose quote kicks off today’s Reflection, Saint Agatha of Sicily .
Amidst the tales of the seemingly endless cavalcade of tortured Catholic Saints, Agatha’s remains nonetheless a particularly notorious and grim standout. Born into a wealthy and noble family in the year 231 AD, she took a vow of virginity at the age of 15. Governor Quintianus, who presided over her district, decided however that he wanted to marry her. He quickly became hell-bent on forcing her to break her vow, which she made out of love for Jesus Christ.
When she refused, Quintianus grew angry and threatened to have her tortured and killed. Agatha remained steadfast and undeterred, prompting Quintianus to follow up on his threat, imprisoning Agatha and in a brothel no less. It was there that men of a predatory nature sought to attack and defile her. Their efforts however were in vain. Her goodness, legend has it, won them over. Enraged at Agatha’s continued refusal, not to mention her resiliency, Quintianus ultimately called for her torture and subsequent execution. Records of her torture include the severing of her breasts with pincers as she continually prayed aloud and affirmed love for and trust in God.
Ultimately succumbing to the torture, Agatha would go to become recognized as the Patron Saint of rape victims, breast cancer patients, wet nurses, and martyrs. She remains today an inspirational advocate for the countless women who suffer from the various forms of sexual exploitation. Her story, sadly enough, is eerily familiar to that of Saint Lucy’s https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-Feast-of-Saint-Lucy as well as the Saint whose Feast Day we recognized back on January 21st, Saint Agnes https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Saint-Agnes-and-the-Queenly-Virtue-of-Fearless-Suffering. These three doubly-crowned Virgin and Martyr Saints are in fact members of a group I affectionately refer to as The Women of Eucharist Prayer #1, the others being Saints Perpetua, Felicity, Cecilia and Anastasia.
Sexual abuse, trafficking, rape, assault, and other illicit and evil forms of exploitation, at times even carried out against children, are all too common even today, in our allegedly progressive society. Politicians, Hollywood actors and other powerful men of influence and authority will from time to time rail against these crimes, their false self-righteous indignation coming to the forefront as they’re photographed days later by the ravenous paparazzi in strip clubs or coming out of brothels disguised as massage parlors or even in amorous encounters with women who are not their wives. They speak out only for votes and Twitter followers, with their claims of “sex addiction” sure to follow. More often then not, they gain the sympathy they seek from their naive and zombie-like worshippers.
But Saint Agatha’s example and patronage is a genuine gift to women everywhere who suffer pain and abuse in uniquely feminine ways. As Catholics, we are called to surrender to whatever pains God might allow each of us to suffer each day as we seek to run the race, compete hard for the faith and do the Lord’s will. Pain, suffering, and loss must serve to fortify our faith, not weaken it. Tomorrow we will celebrate yet another martyr, Saint Paul Miki, a Japanese Jesuit Seminarian who along with his 26 companions were martyred for their efforts to spread Christianity throughout Japan. A remarkable model of forgiveness, Saint Paul Miki was said to have uttered the following quote in the waning moments of his life as he stood poised to die the same death as Jesus, upon the cross that he modeled his life after. He said “After Christ’s example, I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Fruitful-Rain-and-Going-the-Way-of-All-Flesh.
Inspired by the examples of stronger women and men who have gone before us coupled with the wisdom we consistently seek to accumulate, wisdom that is readily available to us by way of Scripture, prayer and the Sacraments, we can and will triumph. Amidst the previously aforementioned reminders of a life well-lived in today’s 1st Reading from Hebrews, we also encounter these simple yet profound and powerful words: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Heb 13:6).
I leave you with a quote from Saint Bernadette Soubirous, a quote which served as the inspiration for the title of today’s Reflection. May we heed these chords as we maintain our laser focus on the Heavenly finish line that culminates in paradise.
”My crown in heaven should shine with innocence and its flowers should be radiant as the sun. Sacrifices are the flowers Jesus and Mary chose.”
Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.