Today, in St Agatha, we honour that in us which is broken; which has been broken by others, and by ourselves. In this little-known saint, I am confronted by the violence of her story; but lest I gloss too quickly over that violence, let me sit with it. Lest I externalise and project that violence onto others, I must first deal with my own violence, my own brokenness. Do we have the strength (I accidentally wrote “sense” first instead of strength…hmm…try that too) to sit with it, without judging it, but rather consecrating it, redeeming it, instead of destroying it?
From here: We have little reliable information about this martyr, who has been honored since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that Saint Peter healed her. Imprisoned further, then rolled on live coals, she was near death when an earthquake stuck. In the destruction, the magistrate’s friend was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.