Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

Saint Agatha (Missale Romanum 1970)

For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the Feast of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, celebrated on February 5th in both forms of the Roman Rite. Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"May the Virgin Martyr Saint Agatha implore Your compassion for us, O Lord, we pray, for she found favor with You by the courage of her martyrdom and the merit of her chastity. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

Like many of the early female martyrs, St. Agatha was persecuted not only for her Catholic faith, but also for her virginal-spousal relation to Christ. Both of these things (faith and virginity) were often closely-guarded secrets due to the risk of persecution. In Agatha’s case, both came under attack when she refused the pagan governor who took an interest in her.

Pagan Romans bristled at the exclusivity of Christianity, i.e., the refusal of the Christians to worship any other gods alongside Christ. They also could not stomach the idea of a woman of social standing not being married off (sometimes like a slave, in that culture), and instead, devoting her whole self to this new and exclusive God named Jesus. Both things defied the established social conventions. When faith and spousal virginity were manifested in a young, beautiful unmarried woman, trouble usually ensued, as the Church’s lengthy rolls of virgin-martyrs testify. 

Notable in St. Agatha’s story is the intercession of the Prince of the Apostles. St. Peter appeared to St. Agatha in prison and healed her after she had endured grisly tortures which attacked her femininity (Roman torture and punishment often targeted human dignity in malicious ways). In our own times marked by rampant impurity, we might turn to St. Agatha both for protection and for the healing of wounds caused by an impure culture. Indeed, may the saints who excelled in chastity heal our own hearts singed by the destructive flames of impurity and sin.

The virgin martyrs hold out to us the excelling good of loving God with all one’s being, of loving Him and others chastely, of rising above the culture’s distortions of God’s great gifts of marriage and family. Their courage and their chaste love for Christ lift us up above the value systems of this world, which we unconsciously imbibe at times. St. Agatha and her company call us up to a higher value system, the heavenly one, where charity for God and neighbor conquer every evil. Indeed, their fixed place in the Canon of the Mass remind us of this every day.

Accordingly, more than their example, we depend upon their prayers to help us grow in chastity and holiness in concrete ways. To this point, consider the following excerpt from the Divine Office for her feast day, from a homily on St. Agatha of St. Methodius of Sicily:

“The woman who invites us to this banquet is both a wife and virgin. To use the analogy of Paul, she is the bride who has been betrothed to one husband, Christ. A true virgin, she wore the glow of pure conscience and the crimson of the Lamb’s blood for her cosmetics. Again and again she meditated on the death of her eager lover. For her, Christ’s death was recent, His blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. It bears the indelible marks of His crimson blood and the shining threads of her eloquence. She offers to all who come after her these treasures of her eloquent confession. Agatha, the name of our saint, means ‘good.’ She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. She was also given as the gift of God, the source of all goodness to her bridegroom, Christ, and to us. For she grants us a share in her goodness…..Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good. God alone.” 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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