Tuesday, February 5, 2013

St. Agatha

St. Agatha's feast day is February 5, commemorating the day she died, as is the case with all saint's feast days. Agatha died ca. 251 during the Christian persecutions under Decius. She was known to have been a very pretty girl from a wealthy family, who had the misfortune to catch the eye of Quintian, the Governor of Sicily. Agatha refused Quintian's affections, having taken a Christian vow of purity and devotion to Christ. Quintian had Agatha first sent to a brother, then later imprisoned and brutally tortured and her breasts were severed. Quintian's tortures continued and she finally died unshaken in her dedication to Christ.

Devotion to her spread beyond Sicily and she is honored for her courage in suffering and her devotion and commitment to Christ. St. Agatha is the patron saint of Sicily, nurses, bakers, miners, jewelers, Alpine guides, and those suffering from breast cancer. She is also the protector against earthquakes, volcanoes, fires and thunderstorms.

The devotion to her is greatest in the village of Catania, in Sicily. Starting on the 2nd of February and ending on the 5th, the Saint Agatha festival is celebrated by the entire village.

Feasts for Saint Agatha Day include the blessing of the bread. This tradition may have originated due to misconceptions that renditions of St. Agatha with her breasts on a platter were mistaken for her presenting a platter of bread.

Another tradition is the making of Minni di Virgini, a cake shaped like breasts. The cake is made with sponge cake, ricotta cheese, chocolate and candied fruit. A red candied cherry completes the cake.

Ways you can celebrate or honor St. Agatha today might include making your own version of Minni di Virgini, or perhaps shaping bread to resemble a breast.

Make a donation to breast cancer research. One way we did last year was to donate a car to a breast cancer research organization. We chose them because the bulk of their money goes to research and not administration. Look around and see if there is anything like that where you live.

Agatha is the patron saint of nurses and bakers, so bake something special and take it to your favorite nurse or nurses as a way to say thank you.

If you haven't done a breast exam lately, make sure to do one today. If you need to schedule a mammogram, do so. If you know someone who has or has had breast cancer, take them out for lunch or supper and show them you care about their struggle. If they are currently being treated, ask what you can do for them. Cancer is an ugly beast, and sufferers deal with it each in their own way. You won't know how you can help unless you ask.

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