I believe this image of St Agatha comes from Lechlade Church in England. Lechlade is a beautiful town which claims to be the source of the River Thames. One October I took a two week canoe journey down the Thames from Lechlade.
Agatha was a virgin martyr from the middle of the third century. The reason she is pictured here in a rather uncomfortable pose is that part of her torture was to have her breasts cut off. As the story goes, she died as a Christian martyr because she would not yield her virginity to an older pagan magistrate who pursued her.
I had often thought that these ancient virgin martyrs were a little bit irrelevant to our day and age. But this morning at 7am I celebrated her memorial by saying Mass at St Joseph’s Catholic School. In the congregation were about thirty people including a good number of our Middle School and High School young people. Like St Agatha, they are struggling with all the battles of purity and chastity in an increasingly pagan, decadent and sexually rampant society.
I only had a moment to speak of St Agatha’s life and sacrifice, but I suddenly knew that she was anything but irrelevant. Instead she fought the very same battles that the teenagers today are fighting. They may not face immediate martyrdom, but they face exclusion and ridicule should they stand up for chastity, sexual purity and the higher and more noble ideals that their faith offers them.
In a moment of light I connected with St Agatha, and felt that she was there with us, praying for us, sympathizing with the struggles our own kids are struggling with. I hope this precious teenaged saint is not only the patron of bell ringers and bakers and breast cancer sufferers, but the patron of all the programs that promote chastity and a noble ideal of purity for our children.