Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5 - Agatha of Sicily, Martyr, Virgin, Victim of Persecution

Agatha had done at least two unthinkable things in polite Roman society. The first had been becoming a Christian. At the time in which Agatha devoted herself to her crucified Lord, Christianity was a persecuted and detested religion considered to be comprised of atheist (they denied the existence of the Roman gods), incestuous (husband and wife called each other brother and sister) cannibals (they met at night in secret and were said to eat the flesh and drink the blood of their Lord). For a beautiful and wealthy woman like Agatha this was unthinkable. The Romans could understand why the poor became Christians but it was incredible to them that a woman with so much to lose would risk everything by faith. They didn't understand her or her Lord.The other great unthinkable thing had been when she refused the advances of the prefect Quinctianus.

Under the persecutions of Decius, Quinctianus realized he had a unique opportunity. He lusted after young Agatha and made his carnal desires known to her. She rejected his proposals and continued on in her faith as a woman committed to maintaining her virginity before her Lord. Since she was committed to celibacy she was not going to take any husband let alone a prefect of the Roman Empire that wanted to kill her and all her brothers and sisters in the Faith. He engineered a plan to blackmail her into having sex within him whenever he wanted it. He threatened to turn her over to the authorities and have her executed as a Christian. He insisted that he would protect her if she would become his mistress. She insisted that she was a virgin and intended to remain celibate so he had her taken to a brothel so that she might be raped and stripped of the virginity that perplexed Quinctianus. She was able to withstand the advances of the men at the brothel and eventually was turned out of the brothel because she was causing too great a spectacle and distraction.

Quinctianus brought her before him again and threatened with torture and death if she would not give into this lust. She continued to refuse and so he had men come in and secure her. First her breasts were crushed and then they were savagely cut from her body. Quinctianus watched while this evil was perpetrated and Agatha had a few words for him: “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” But Quinctianus was not deterred and ordered Agatha to be burnt to death--naked and in public.Bleeding, she was paraded before the people and brought to the place of her intended execution. Yet, as they prepared to finalize this atrocity, an earthquake shook the city. She was taken back to a prison cell and died there from her wounds. She died a martyr who did the unthinkable and refused to be deterred from her life of devotion and faith.

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