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St. Agatha is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of the Catholic Church. Her feast day is February 5. Born around 231 in Sicily to a rich and noble family, Agatha was quite beautiful. She became a consecrated virgin at an early age, but that did not stop men from desiring her and making unwanted advances.

One such man was a high ranking diplomatic official, who believed he could make Agatha turn away from her vow and marry him. Instead, she scorned his persistent proposals so, knowing she was a Christian, he had her arrested and brought before the judge. He was the judge. When Agatha repeatedly refused to break her vows, even when threatened with torture and possible death, she was sent to a brothel. The official, hearing of her calm strength during months of assaults in the brothel, had her brought before him again. Not only did Agatha refuse him, but told him that to be a servant of Jesus Christ was her true freedom. She was then sent to prison instead of returned to the brothel.

Agatha continued to proclaim Jesus as her Savior, and for that she was stretched on a rack, torn with iron hooks, burned by torches, and whipped. Noticing that she endured all of this with a sense of cheer, the official ordered that her breasts be cut off and Agatha returned
to prison without food or medical attention. During this imprisonment, Agatha had a vision of St. Peter, the Apostle, who comforted her and healed her wounds through his prayers. After four days the official, who ignored the miraculous healing of her wounds, had her rolled naked over hot coals mixed with sharp shreds. When she was returned to prison she prayed, “Lord, my Creator, You have ever protected me from the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer. Receive now
my soul.”

Agatha is believed to have passed into Heaven in 251, at the age of 20. She is the Patron Saint of Sicily, breast cancer patients, rape victims, and wet nurses. She is also considered a powerful intercessor for victims of fire. In some parts of Italy, her intercession is invoked against volcanic eruptions. St. Agatha was canonized pre-congregation (pre-11th century, before the institution of investigations) by tradition, confirmed by Pope Gregory 1.