Agatha of Sicily or Saint Agatha (d. 251) is a Christian saint. Her memorial day is on February 5 according to the Gregorian calendar and February 18 on the Julian calendar (still used by some Eastern Orthodox churches). Agatha was born at Catania and she was martyred in approximately AD 250. She is the patron saint of Catania. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
According to variations of her legend, having rejected the amorous advances of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. She is therefore often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter.
The shape of her amputated breasts, especially as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and as the patron saint of bakers. More recently, she is venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.
Her scorned admirer eventually sentenced her to death by being burnt at the stake. However, she was saved from this fate by a mysterious earthquake. She later died in prison.
Agatha is considered as patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.
Propers for Agatha - Virgin and Martyr.
O GOD, who among other miracles of thy power hast bestowed the victory of martyrdom also upon women: mercifully grant, that we who honour the birthday of blessed Agatha, thy Virgin and Martyr, may through her example walk in the way that leadeth unto thee. Through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
The Epistle - I Corinthians 1:26-31.
Ye see your calling, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
The Gospel - St. Matthew 19:3-12.
The Pharisees also came unto Jesus, tempting him, and saying unto him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry? But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
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