St. Peter Healing St. Agatha c. 1614 painted by Giovanni Lanfranco now in the Galleria Nazionale in Parma, Italy
St. Agatha was born in either Catania or Palermo, Sicily around the year 230. She was martyred around the year 253 as a young virgin during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius (240-253). The name Agatha means good or virtuous. Very little is known about her life, but according to legend she was a beautiful woman from a wealthy family. She was consecrated to God at an early age and made a vow of virginity in order to dedicate her life to Christ.
In January 250, The Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity. Everyone was required to sacrifice to the Roman gods before public officials by a certain day 'for the safety of the empire'.
Hoping to take advantage of this persecution, Quinctianus, a local magistrate who hated Christians, tried to blackmail Agatha into sexual relations with him in exchange for not charging her as a Christian. When Agatha refused his advances, Quinctianus had her beaten and handed over to an evil woman called Aphrodisia who ran a house of prostitution with her six daughters. Agatha remained chaste and steadfast in her Christian faith. One month later Quinctianus offered her freedom, but she said “to be a servant of Christ is to be truly free.” She boldly addressed Quinctianus saying:
My courage and my thought be so firmly founded upon the firm stone of Jesus Christ, that for no pain it may not be changed; your words be but wind, your promises be but rain, and your menaces be as rivers that pass, and how well that all these things hurtle at the foundation of my courage, yet for that it shall not move
She also attacked the Roman cult images as idols. Quinctianus then had her tortured by crushing her breasts and cutting them off. St. Agatha reproached him saying “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?”
St. Peter appeared to her in a vision to comfort her, console her and heal her. Despite the miracle, Quinctianus failed to repent and ordered her to be rolled naked on a bed of live coals mixed with broken pottery.
A violent earthquake shook the ground and part of a wall fell on and killed Silvain, a counselor of Quinctianus and his friend Fastion. Both of them exhorted Quinctianus to torture St. Agatha.
The people of Catania were frightened. They believed the earthquake was a punishment from God for the sin of the torture of St. Agatha. Quinctianus fearing a revolt by the people, stopped his torture. St. Agatha was sent back to prison where she died of her wounds just a few hours later on February 5. With her last breath she said "Lord my Creator, you have always protectd me from my cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my soul."
One year after her death the volcano Mount Etna erupted and lava began to flow towards the city of Catania. The people of Catania ran to St. Agatha’s tomb, held up her red veil and prayed to God through her intercession that the city be spared. The lava stopped, saving the people and the city.
St. Agatha is a patron saint of those who suffer from breast cancer and sexual assault. Many people also ask her intercession against fires and natural disasters.
We should pray to St. Agatha for all women who suffer breast cancer and that women will be told the truth about the most preventable causes of breast cancer. In 2007, 40,910 women were projected to die of breast cancer in the United States. In 2004, 519,000 women died from breast cancer worldwide.
While most cancers have declined in the past 30 years, breast cancer has increased in the United States by an alarming 40%. During this time there have been dramatic changes in the lifestyles of most women. This includes an explosion in the numbers of abortions, delayed child bearing and the use of powerful hormones for birth control.
Many scientists now acknowledge that an abortion before a first live birth increases the risk of breast cancer. Some studies also show an increased risk of cancer due to the birth control pill which works by increasing the amount of the hormone estrogen.
While these findings remain controversial almost all cancer researchers acknowledge that delaying childbirth definitely increases the risk of breast cancer. In 2003, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons called on doctors to inform patients about a"highly plausible" relationship between abortion and breast cancer.
But unfortunately, as we have seen in the global warming debate, politics often trumps good science. The National Cancer Institute has been a leader in trying to suppress the truth about the abortion-breast cancer link. But now, Louise A. Brinton, the person most responsible for convincing the agency to deny the link now acknowledges that abortion has co-authored a study which concludes that abortion is a “known risk factor” for breast cancer.
The study appeared in the April, 2009 issue of the prestigious journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The study confirms an earlier study from 1996 by Janet Daling, who considers herself “pro-choice”. Daling found that abortion increases a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer from between 20 to 50 percent.
In two other similar studies in China and Turkey also showed a statistically significant relationship between abortion and breast cancer.
The study also showed that women with a family history of breast cancer who had abortions as teenagers increased their risk of getting breast cancer by 80 percent. This is a approximately 30,000 to 50,000 teenagers with a history of breast cancer in their family obtain abortions every year.
The Susan B. Komen Foundation raises awareness about the scourge of breast cancer. Komen should be a leader in informing women about the link between abortion and breast cancer. However, Komen not only denies the link, but gives money to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion business in the United States.
Yet, despite the fact that this study was published ten months ago, The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and other organizations supposedly dedicated to raising awareness about cancer have failed to warn women of the link between abortion and breast cancer.
Let’s ask the intercession of St. Agatha that women will be told the truth will be told about the relationship between breast cancer and abortion, the birth control pill and that we will overcome the scourge of breast cancer.
For more information on the link between breast cancer and abortion see the websites of The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.