Catholics around the world celebrate the life of Saint Agatha on February 5. She’s not one of the most well-known saints. However, she is actually one of just seven female saints mentioned in the Canon of the Mass (in the longest version of the Eucharistic prayer).
St. Agatha was an early Christian martyr. Even though she lived about eighteen hundred years ago, her life and example are still relevant for single Catholic men and women today.
A vow of virginity and love of Christianity in time of persecution
We know little about Agatha’s early life. It’s believed that her parents were members of the nobility. More than likely, they were wealthy. However, we truly know nothing else about them for certain.
Whether from her parents educating her or in some other manner, Agatha learned about Christianity. She chose to devote her life to God when she was a teenager. Then, when Agatha was fifteen years old, she chose to make a vow of virginity and consecrated herself to God.
Her newfound Christian faith and desire to devote her entire life to God as a virgin were both choices that weren’t widely understood in society. Around that time, the emperor Decius began persecuting Christians.
Many probably assumed that Agatha, a beautiful young woman, would soon marry. In fact, despite Agatha’s vow of virginity, some men began to make romantic advances towards her.
Even when imprisoned, Agatha persevered in faith
One man who desired to marry Agatha was a high-ranking diplomat named Quintianus. Though Agatha told him she could not marry him because of her vow of virginity, Quintianus was determined to force her to marry him and to give up her vow.
He became angry with Agatha’s refusal. When he realized that he simply could not force her to marry him, he involved the law.
Quintianus betrayed Agatha’s Christianity to the law officials and she was arrested. In her trial, Quintianus himself was the judge. He assumed she would be ready to do whatever he wanted in order that she might avoid terrible torture and the possibility of death.
But Quintianus greatly underestimated Agatha’s courage and her devotion to God. Instead of relenting, Agatha began to pray out loud. She asked God, in front of the non-Christians present, to give her courage and to help her overcome evil. She wept, and she offered herself entirely to God.
Quintianus was still under the delusion that he would be able to change her mind, so her ordered her to be imprisoned in a brothel.
Agatha teaches us how to endure during suffering
Agatha was imprisoned in a brothel for an entire month. She suffered repeated assaults. Despite this horror, she did not waver in faith or trust in God. In fact, she continued to hold fast to her vow, refusing to renounce it despite all she endured.
Quintianus heard that she was acting with great courage. Again, he brought before him for questioning. He offered her the chance for freedom once again, if she only renounced her vow. But instead of giving in, Agatha told him that being a servant of Christ was the path to true freedom.
Quintianus was enraged at her words and her continued refusal, so he put her in prison. While in prison, she continued to hold fast to her faith and to talk about her commitment to God. Hearing of this, Quintianus had her tortured.
Agatha endured torture courageously and even cheerfully. So next, Quintianus had her breasts cut off. Quintianus then sent her back to prison without medical care or food. But God sent a vision of Saint Peter to her, and Agatha was healed.
Determined to break her, Quintianus next had her stripped of her clothes. While she was naked, he had her rolled over shards and hot coals. Then, he sent her back to prison again. Agatha knew that her death was now approaching. She thanked God for giving her courage, and she asked the Lord to receive her soul.
Again, we don’t know the exact details of her life, but we think that Agatha probably died around the year 251.
Growing in devotion to Agatha as a single Catholic
Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims because of all she suffered in the brothel on account of her faith. She can be a great intercessor for any of us who have endured a sexual assault in our own lives.
Agatha is also a great example of courage amidst attacks on purity and of commitment to the faith despite great sufferings.
In our world today, our purity is assaulted in so many ways. Single Catholic men and women especially face great trials as they strive to remain pure in a society that says chastity is foolish or impossible. The struggle to remain faithful amidst the pressures of others’ opinions or sometimes even outright persecution can be very difficult at times for all of us.
Today, take time to intercede to Agatha prayers and inspiration in struggles with purity, in any pain over past attacks against purity, and in the battle to remain faithful even when you suffer greatly for it.
Saint Agatha, pray for us!
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