February 5: St Agatha, Class III

St Agatha is one of the seven female saints named in the canon of the mass. 

She had vowed herself to virginity but was persecuted by the pagan official in charge of her city, Catania in Sicily.  Told to sacrifice to the gods or suffer, she stood firm, whereupon she was subjected to a series of tortures, including having her breasts cut off. 

Forbidden medical treatment, in the middle of the night an old man approached her, and revealed himself to be the apostle Peter.  He healed her, but this only spurred on her tormentor to greater indignities, ordering her to be burnt naked over hot coals. 

The Benedictus antiphon for her feast refers to the eruption of the volcano above Catania on the day of her death: crowds of pagans snatched up the pall that covered the saint’s tomb, and hung it up in the path of the advancing fire and lava; miraculously, the steam of lava ceased its advance.

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