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Friday, February 5, 2016

A Saint for Our Time: St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

St. Agatha by Caravaggio
St. Agatha, one of the early Roman martyrs, lived during a time of tremendous sexual immorality. What is known of her is from the tradition of the Church. Wealthy and renowned for her beauty, many sought her in marriage, but she dedicated herself to God praying, "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil."

A determined young woman, Agatha resisted the advances of a high Roman official, Quintian, who thought he could force her into an immoral relationship. When she spurned him he retaliated. As a judge, he sent her to a brothel where she refused the advances of the customers. Quintian had her tortured, her breasts cut off, and ordered her rolled in hot coals. Nevertheless, she prayed as she was dying, "Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul."


Consider the attitude of the culture today toward women, particularly those who are young and beautiful. They are seen as recyclable sex objects who can be used for pleasure without the complication of children. Many foolish women acquiesce to society's view of them, dressing immodestly and essentially becoming unpaid prostitutes as they engage in serial sexual relationships which go nowhere.

What a tragedy! Instead of seeing their virginity as a treasure to be protected, it's a curse. An article at Salon describing women who are virgins into their twenties and thirties was so bizarre it had me shaking my head. Many of these women are probably only technical virgins who've done everything up to the point of penetration. One young woman sharing her story describes being nearly naked in bed with a guy when he finds out she's "a virgin" and backs off. That hardly fits the image of the virgin martyrs of Rome like St. Agatha does it?

But isn't it interesting that the guys apparently don't want to be the ones who "deflower" the virgins. Why? Could it be that there is still an element of the spiritual, and mystery about such women? Or are the guys just afraid they aren't using birth control and will expect too much from them if they have sex? Whatever the reason, those of us who recognize the value of the virtues of chastity and modesty need to proclaim them and pray for young people who are trying live God's way. Virginity isn't a disease to be cured, it's the pearl of great price. And it's not just for women!

So...to sum up. Real men don't use women as sex toys and aren't afraid of commitment. Real women don't use men or entice them and try to hold on to them with sex. Real men protect women and children. Real women challenge men to act like men instead of little boys demanding their lollipops. And real men and women don't see birth control as a blessing to allow them to have sex without consequences. They recognize it in the words of G.K. Chesterton as and act “by which it is possible to filch the pleasure belonging to a natural process while violently and unnaturally thwarting the process itself.”

St. Agatha, pray for us.


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