February 5
The feast of St. Agatha of Sicily

According to legend, St. Agatha had dedicated her virginity to God. When she was 15, a Roman official named Quintianus attempted to pull her from her vows and marry her. When she refused, he had her arrested for her faith and presided as judge over her case, believing she would accept his marriage proposal when faced with the possibility of torture and death.

She again rejected him, and was sentenced to imprisonment in a brothel where she endured assaults for a month. Agatha was brought before Quintianus again, and again she refused his proposal, and was imprisoned again, in a jail rather than a brothel. The cycle repeated again, and Agatha was sentenced to be burned at the stake. A miraculous earthquake saved her and instead Agatha suffered prolonged torture culminating with her breasts being torn off by pinchers. She was sent back to the prison and guards were ordered not to give her food or medical care. However, the apostle St. Peter visited her and tended to her wounds (pictured). She was then rolled naked over hot coals and shards which seemed to have finally killed her, at the age of 20, around 251 AD.

St. Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer, earthquakes, fire, and rape victims among others.

Saint Peter Healing Agatha, by the Caravaggio-followerGiovanni Lanfranco, ca 1614

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