Two cities of Sicily, Palermo and Catania, contest the honour of her birthplace. She was of noble parentage. Endowed with remarkable beauty, she had to resist the solicitations of the Consul Quintianus, who, unable to attain his end by persuasion, threw her into prison. Her breast was torn by his order, but was healed the following night by the apostle Saint Peter, who appeared to her in prison. In the proper of her Mass, the Communion commemorates that miracle:
“I invoke Him the living God, who vouchsafed to cure me of every wound, and to restore my breast to my body.”
The obvious miracle did not impress Quintianus, who could not understand why she continued to remain a Christian, for proud Rome considered the Christians as little better than slaves.
“I am the servant of Christ,” she replied to her disappointed suitor. “The sovereign nobleness is to be the slave of Christ,”
He had her body rolled on pieces of broken pottery and on burning coals, and on being brought back to her cell she expired. This happened at Catania, in 251, during the seventh persecution. Decius was the Roman Emperor.
One year after her death the neighbouring volcano, Mount Etna, erupted, and a river of burning lava moved towards Catania. Rushing to her tomb, the people of Catania seized her virginal veil, which was not burned, only crimsoned by the fire which had caused her death, and holding it up before the oncoming stream, changed its course to the ocean and the city was saved. This happened on February 5th, her feast day.
Let us invoke Saint Agatha to preserve our homes from fire, and to extinguish within our bodies the impure flames of sensuality.