Memorial of Saint Agatha
How can anyone know about the details of a young girl who lived about 1800 years ago? Today our Church universal remembers and honors St. Agatha of Sicily. We aren’t sure if she was born in Catania or Palermo. The trivial details have long been forgotten. What is remembered is her single-heartedness. What has been passed down and written about is how highly she was venerated in Christian antiquity. She was put to death during the persecution of Decius for her unwavering belief in God.
From her very early years Agatha dedicated her life to God as a consecrated virgin. She desired to give herself totally to Jesus and the Church in a life of prayer and service. A high diplomat named Quintianus thought he could get her to turn away from her vow to God and force her to marry him. Polite proposals escalated to harassment, arrests, imprisonment, and hideous torture. Through all of it Agatha continued her simple prayer of single-heartedness to Christ. Even the prayer attributed to her death, was a single-heart devotion. “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 the embodiment of our first reading in the letter to the Hebrews. Persevering in running the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus the leader and perfecter of faith, and embracing the joy we find in the presence of Christ is the ideal Agatha lived. She understood it as the fullness and completeness of life.
We contrast this with the gospel reading of the woman with the hemorrhage sandwiched in between the story of Jairus’ daughter. It is common in my world to find people who will come begging to God when something happens pushing their ability to cope. Everyone who needs God to fix a problem, solve a dilemma, or provide a miracle will tend to sing God’s praises. On the other hand, it is particularly rare and beautiful to find those who deeply know that God is their ultimate joy and delight. They don’t come to God in need, they merely choose to live in the God’s abundant love. And the light that radiates from within them must be the same light and beauty Agatha had radiating from within her even in her tortured form as she invited the Divine One, “Receive now my soul.”
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.