From Settimo Cielo
By Sandro Magister
From Settimo Cielo
By Sandro Magister
Mark your calendar! Wednesday, 3 May 2023!
According to the Apostolic Penitentiary, a partial indulgence is granted to those who on the feast of any Saint recite in his honour the oration of the Missal or any other approved by legitimate Authority.
St Agatha is mentioned by name in the Roman Canon. Today, in both West and East, is her Feast.
From the West:
Since the commencement of the Ecclesiastical Year we have kept the feasts of two out of the four illustrious Virgins whose names are daily honoured in the Holy Sacrifice of the Lamb: the third comes today, lighting up the Heaven of the Church with her bright soft rays. Lucy, first. Then, Agnes and now the gracious visit of Agatha. The fourth, Caecilia, the immortal Caecilia, is to be one of that magnificent constellation which gives such splendour to the closing of the year. Today, then, let us keep a feast in honour of Agatha, the Virgin Daughter of that same fair Sicily which can boast of her Lucy. We must not allow the holy sadness of our present Season to take anything from the devotion we owe to our Saint. The joy with which we celebrate her merits will lead us to study her virtues. She will repay us by her prayers. She will encourage us to persevere in the path which is to bring us to the God she so nobly loved and served, and with whom she is now forever united.
How lovely are your palms, Agatha! But how long and cruel was your combat for them! The day yours. Your faith and your virginity triumphed but the battlefield was streamed with your blood, and your glorious wounds bear testimony to the Angels how stern was the courage of your fidelity to Jesus, your Spouse. When your enemies left you, it was to Him you looked up, and then your soul flew to its rest in the bosom of your King and God. The whole Church keeps feast today, praising her Lord in you, great Martyr and Virgin! She knows the love you bear her and how, amid the joys of Heaven, her interests and her wants are the object of your prayers. You are our Sister. Be too our Mother by interceding for us. Centuries have passed away since that day on which your soul quitted the body you had sanctified by purity and suffering, but the great battle between the spirit and the flesh is still waging here on Earth, and will so to the end of time. Assist us in the struggle. Keep up within our hearts the holy fire which the world and our passions are ever seeking to quench.
It is now the season when every Christian should renew his whole being by repentance and compunction. We know the power of your prayer. Let it procure us these gifts: the fear of God, which keeps down the workings of corrupt nature; the spirit of penance, which repairs the injuries caused by our sins, and a solid love for our dear Lord, which sweetens the yoke and ensures perseverance. More than once a whole people has witnessed how a relic of yours, your veil, has checked the stream of lava which rolled down the sides of Etna. We are threatened with a torrent of vice which will drive the world back to pagan corruption unless Divine Mercy stay its wild fury, and prayers such as yours can obtain it for us. Delay not, O Agatha! Each day gives strength to the danger. Not a nation but what is now infected with the poison of a literature that is infidel and immoral. By your prayers keep the poisonous cup from them that have not tasted, neutralise its power in them that have drunk its venom of death. Oh! spare us the shame of seeing our Europe the slave of sensuality and the dupe of Hell.
From The Golden Legend of Blessed Jacobus Voragine, translated by William Caxton in 1483.
St Agatha the virgin was right fair, noble body and of heart, and was rich of goods. This glorious virgin served God in the city of Catania, leading a pure and holy life. Quintianus the provost of Sicily, being of a low lineage, was lecherous, avaricious, and a miscreant and and for to accomplish his evil desires fleshly, and to have riches, did do take St. Agatha to be presented and brought tofore him, and began to behold her with a lecherous sight; and for to have her himself, he would have induced her to make sacrifice unto the idols.
QUINTIANUS CONSIGNS AGATHA TO THE KEEPING OF APHRODISIA
And when he saw her firm in her purpose, he put her in the keeping of a woman named Aphrodisia, which had nine daughters, over foul, like unto the mother. This did he for to induce St. Agatha to do his will within thirty days. Aphrodisia and her daughters entreated the holy virgin to consent to the will of the provost, and sometime they made to her great promises of temporal goods and of great eases, and sometimes they made to her menaces of grievous torments for to suffer, and great pains, to which St. Agatha answered freely: My and my thought be so firmly founded upon the firm stone of Jesu 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 all these things hurtle at the foundement of my courage, yet for that it shall not move.
In this manner answered she, and alway wept in making her prayers, and much great desire had she to come to Jesu Christ by martyrdom and by torments. When Aphrodisia saw well that in no wise she would be moved, she went to the provost Quintianus, and said to him: Sooner should the stones wax soft, and iron turn to soft lead, than turn the courage of this maid, or to take from her the Christian faith. I and my daughters have done none other thing night day, one after another, but to labour how we might turn her heart to your consenting. I have promised her in your name your precious adornments, clothes of gold, houses, lands, towns, servants, and great and all this she despiseth and reputeth them at no value.
REFUSING QUINTIANUS’ COMMAND TO WORSHIP IDOLS, AGATHA IS IMPRISONED
When Quintianus heard this, anon he made her to come tofore him in judgment, and demanded her of her lineage, and at the last he would constrain her to make sacrifice unto the idols. And St. Agatha answered that they were no gods, but were devils that were in the idols made of marble and of wood, and Quintianus said: Choose one of two; or do sacrifice to our gods, or thou shalt suffer pain and torments.
St. Agatha said: Thou sayst that they be gods because thy wife was such an one as was Venus, thy goddess, and thou thyself as Jupiter, which was an homicide and evil.
Quintianus said: It appeareth well that thou wilt suffer torments, in that thou sayst to me villainy.
St. Agatha said: I marvel much that so wise a man is become such a fool, that thou sayest of them to be thy gods, whose life thou thy wife will follow. If they be good I would that thy life were like unto theirs; and if thou refusest their life, then art thou of one accord with me. Say then that they be evil and so foul, and forsake their living, and be not of such life as thy gods were.
Quintianus said: What goest thou thus vainly speaking? Make sacrifice unto the gods, or if thou do not I shall make thee to die by divers torments. St. Agatha abode firm and stable in the faith. Then Quintianus did do put her in a dark prison, and she went also gladly, and with as good will as she had been prayed to go to a wedding.
AFTER A SECOND REFUSAL, QUINTIANUS ORDERS HER BREASTS REMOVED
On the morning Quintianus made her to be brought tofore him in judgment, and said to her: Agatha, how art thou advised for thy health? She answered: Christ is mine health.
Quintianus said: Christ thy God, by which thou mayest escape thy torments.
St. Agatha answered: Nay, but reny thou thine idols which be of stones and of wood, and adore thy maker, that made heaven and earth, and if thou do not thou shalt be tormented in the perpetual fire in hell.
Then in great ire Quintianus did her to be drawn and stretched on a tree and tormented, and said to her: Refuse thy vain opinion that thou hast, and thou shalt be eased of thy pain.
And she answered: I have as great in these pains as he that saw come to him that thing which he most coveteth to see, or as he that had found great treasure. And like as the wheat may not be put in the unto the time that the chaff be beaten off, in like wise my soul may not enter into the realm of heaven, but if thou wilt torment my body by thy ministers.
Then Quintianus did her to be tormented in her breasts and and commanded that her breasts and should be drawn and cut off. When the ministers had accomplished his commandment, then said St. Agatha: Over felon and cruel tyrant, hast thou no shame to cut off that in a woman which thou didst suck in thy mother, and whereof thou wert nourished? But I have my paps whole in my soul, of which I nourish all my wits, the which I have ordained to serve our Lord Jesu Christ, the beginning of my youth.
ST. PETER HEALS AGATHA IN PRISON
After, Quintianus did do put her in prison, and commanded that none should enter for to heal her, ne none should give to her meat ne drink. And when she was fast closed in the prison, there came an ancient noble man, and tofore him a child bearing a light, and divers ointments in his hand. This noble man said that he was a surgeon, and in comforting her said: the tyrant hath tormented thee bodily, nevertheless thou hast more tormented him in his heart by thy answers. I was there when he made thy paps to be cut off, and saw how I might well heal them.
Then said she: I knew never of medicine and it were shame to me to take it now. That which I have avowed and kept to my Lord, sith mine infancy, yet I shall keep it if it please him.
The ancient nobleman answered: I am also Christian, and a good master and be not ashamed.
She answered: Whereof should I be ashamed? Thou art ancient and of great age, and how well that I be a young maid, nevertheless my body is defeated by the torments, that the wounds suffer nothing to enter into my thought whereof I should be ashamed, and not for but I thank thee, fair father, that thou art so diligent to heal me, but know that my body shall receive no medicine of no man.
And this nobleman said: me that I may heal and thee?
She said: Because I have Jesu Christ, my Saviour, which with a word healeth all, and if he will he may heal me.
And the good man smiling said: And he hath sent me hither for to heal thee; I am his apostle, and know that thou art whole in the name of him. And anon the apostle vanished away.
Then she fell down in prayers and said: Lord Jesu Christ, I yield thee thankings that thou hast remembered me, and hast sent thine apostle St. Peter to me, which hath comforted me, and healed my wounds. And after the made, she saw that her paps were again restored to her and all her wounds healed.
And all that night was the prison fulfilled with great clearness and light, so that the keepers fled for the great dread that they had, and left the prison all open. Then said to her the other prisoners that were in the prison, that she should go their way, and she said: That shall never happen that the keepers of the prison shall suffer any harm for me, ne that I shall lose my crown; I shall abide in the faith of Jesu Christ my Lord, which hath comforted and healed me.
THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. AGATHA
After four days Quintianus made her to be brought tofore him in judgment, and said to her that she should do sacrifice to the idols.
She answered: These words be vain, and thy commandments evil, they make the air to stink, he is that believeth in a stone without and leaveth our Lord the very God that hath healed me, and hath restored to me again my paps.
Quintianus demanded her: Who is he that hath healed thee?
She said: Jesu Christ.
Quintianus said: Namest thou yet Jesu Christ?
She answered: I shall have in my heart Jesu Christ as long as I shall live.
Quintianus said: Yet shalt thou see if he may help and heal thee. And then he made her, all naked, to be rolled upon burning brands, and anon the ground where the holy virgin was rolled on, began to tremble like an earthquave, and a part of the wall fell down upon Silvain, counsellor of Quintianus, and upon Fastion his friend, by whose counsel she had been so tormented. And then all the city of Catania was abashed, and the people came running unto the house of Quintianus, saying, in a great that the city was in a great peril for the torments that he did to St. Agatha.
Quintianus redoubled the bruit of the people, and went out behind and commanded that she should be in prison. When she came into the prison she joined her hands, holding them up to heavenward, and said in praying: Lord God Jesu Christ which hast created me of nought, and sith my youth hast kept me and hast suffered me to live well in my youth, which hast taken from mine heart the love of the world and hast made me to overcome the torments, and hast lent me patience among the pains, I pray thee that thou take my spirit, for it is time that thou make me to depart from this world and to come to thy mercy.
This orison and prayer made she on high tofore many persons. And anon after she gave up the ghost, and rendered her soul, the year of our Lord two hundred and fifty-three in the time of Decius, the emperor of Rome.
After this the Christian people took the body for to bury it worshipfully, and whiles they arrayed it with ointments for to embalm the corpse, anon came a young man clad in silk, and well an hundred that followed him, richly clothed, which were never tofore seen in the city, ne never after also. This young man, whom followed the fair company, set him on that one side of the tomb in which the body should be put, and when the body was embalmed within the tomb, this young man set, at the head of the body, a short table of marble stone, in which was written this scripture: Mentem sanctam, spontaneam, honorem deo dedit et patriae liberationem fecit; which is as much to say: The holy saint Agatha had always holy thought and pure, and gave honor to God with a free will in all her works, and purchased by her prayers peace and deliverance to all the country.
After that the table containing this scripture was set at her head, the young man and all his company departed from the tomb, being closed, without appearing any more afterward, wherefore it is supposed that this young man was her good angel. This was published over all, whereof the Jews and Saracens began to sing and worship the sepulchre of the tomb of St. Agatha. Quintianus, the provost, died of an evil death in the way as he went for to seek the goods and riches of St. Agatha, and also for to have taken her parents, and never after could be known where her body became.
A MIRACLE OF ST. AGATHA
And for to prove that she had prayed for the salvation of the country, at the beginning of February, the year after her martyrdom, there arose a great fire, and came from the mountain toward the city of Catania and burnt the earth and stones, it was so fervent. Then ran the paynims to the sepulchre of St. Agatha and took the cloth that lay upon her tomb, and held it abroad against the fire, and anon on the ninth day after, which was the day of her feast, ceased the fire as soon as it came to the cloth that they brought from her tomb, showing that our Lord kept the city from the said fire by the merits of St. Agatha. To whom pray we that she by her prayers may get and grace of our Lord to be kept from all perils of fire in this world, and when we shall depart hence to eschew the perpetual fire, and to come to the glory and joy in heaven. Amen.
From the East:
By John Laughland
The U.S.A. was determined to unite Europe militarily, politically, and economically for its own purposes, and the Cold War provided much of the pretext.
Consider first, the wonders of God's goodness in his dealings with sinners. See with what patience he bears with them, and that very often for a long time, notwithstanding their repeated provocations, their continually abusing all his bounty and mercy, and that infinite hatred he always bears to mortal sin, wherever he sees it. O my soul, how much art thou indebted to this patience of thy God, in bearing with thee all these years past, ever since your first fall into sin! Alas! hast thou not all this time been playing upon the very brink of that dreadful precipice which conducts to the bottomless pit? Hast thou not been all this while within a hair's breadth of a miserable eternity? Is it not true, that every night thou hast gone to bed, thou didst not know but that before the morning thou mightest find thyself in hell? Millions have fallen into that dismal dungeon of endless woe, whilst thy God has spared thee; millions are now burning in those unquenchable flames for fewer sins than thou hast committed. O blessed for all eternity be the infinite goodness of my God, and may all his Angels and Saints praise and glorify him for ever, for having endured me so long, for having preserved me all this time, and continually watched over me, or else my soul had long since dwelt in hell!
Consider 2ndly, the many ways by which God seeks to reclaim sinners, and to call them home to him. Reflect on the remorse and inward reproaches of conscience, with which he visits them; the terror of his judgments, and the allurements of his mercies, which he sets before them. See how he is continually calling upon them, by his word, by his preachers, by good books, by good examples, and wholesome admonitions, and by a number of interior invitations and graces. Has he not dealt thus with thee, my soul, all this time thou hast been going astray from him? And what is the meaning of all this goodness of thy God to such an undeserving, ungrateful, and obstinate rebel? Why, it is nothing else but his own pure mercy and love in consideration of the precious blood of his Son. And shall not all this love of his for thee soften thy heart, and oblige thee, now at least, to resolve in good earnest to return to him, lest otherwise, mercy being long abused, should give place to justice, and the soil which has been so often watered with rain from heaven, and still continues to bring forth nothing but thorns and briars, should fall at length under a dreadful curse, and be condemned to the fire? Heb. vi
Consider 3rdly, what encouragement God gives to all sinners to return to him. 'As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of a sinner; but that he may be converted from his ways and may live. O why will you die, O house of Israel?' Ezech xxxiii. 11. 'Return to me and live,' ch. xviii. 32, 'Thou hast gone astray after many lovers, but return to me, and I will receive thee,' Jerem. iii. See with what love the good shepherd in the Gospel goes after the lost sheep, and with what joy he lays it upon his shoulders, and brings it home to the fold. See how the father runs out to meet the prodigal child when he returns home from the husks of the swine; see how he embraces him, clothes him with the best robe, and makes a feast for him. Luke xv. Reflect how the Son of God when here upon earth, treated the penitent Magdalene, the thief upon the cross, and all other sinners that had recourse to his mercy; and how he has declared, that there is more joy in heaven over one penitent sinner, than over ninety-nine just. And let all these instances and testimonies of his goodness to poor sinners, encourage and determine you to stay no longer away from him by sin, but to arise without delay, and return to so good, to so loving a Father, by a thorough conversion.
Conclude to abuse no longer the mercies of God by continuing in sin, but to return to him now at least with thy whole heart, and never to depart from him any more.