Monday, February 5, 2018

Saint February 6 : St. Paul Miki & Companions : Martyrs of Japan


1562, Tsunokuni, Japan
5 February 1597, Nagasaki, Japana
8 June 1862 by Pope Pius IX
Christianity spread like wildfire in sixteenth-century Japan. By the 1580s, less than forty years after Francis Xavier introduced the faith, the church counted two hundred thousand converts. The growth had proceeded despite the opposition of Buddhist priests and many petty rulers. However, in 1587, Emperor Hideyoshi ordered the banishment of all Catholics, forcing the Jesuit missionaries to operate from hiding. But outright persecution did not break out until late 1596, when Hideyoshi rounded up twenty-six Jesuits, Franciscans, and laypeople and prepared to martyr them.
Among the victims was St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit novice who had just completed eleven years of training. Paul’s noble family was converted when he was a child and at age five he was baptized. Educated by Jesuits, the gifted youth joined their novitiate at age twenty-two. He had studied intensively the teachings of the Buddhists so as to be able to debate their priests. He welcomed his chance at martyrdom, but may have wished just a little that it would be delayed long enough for him to be ordained a priest.
Hideyoshi had the left ears of the twenty-six martyrs severed as a sign of disrespect and paraded them through Kyoto. Dressed in his simple black cassock, Paul stood out among them. Most onlookers realized that this noble young man could have worn the samurai’s costume with two swords on his belt. The whole display had the unexpected effect of evoking compassion from the crowd, some of whom later became converts.
The martyrs were then taken to Nagasaki. They were tied to crosses with their necks held in place by iron rings. Beside each was an executioner with his spear ready to strike. An eyewitness gave this account:
When the crosses were set up it was a wonderful thing to see the constancy of all of them. Our brother Paul Miki, seeing himself raised to the most honorable position that he had ever occupied, openly proclaimed that he was a Japanese and a member of the Society of Jesus. And that he was being put to death for having preached the gospel. He gave thanks to God for such a precious favor.
He then added these words: “Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that no one of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians. Since this way teaches me to forgive my enemies and all who have offended me, I willingly forgive the king and all those who have desired my death. And I pray that they will obtain the desire of Christian baptism.”
At this point, he turned his eyes toward his companions and began to encourage them in their final struggle. The faces of them all shone with great gladness. Another Christian shouted to him that he would soon be in paradise. “Like my Master,” murmured Paul, “I shall die upon the cross. Like him, a lance will pierce my heart so that my blood and my love can flow out upon the land and sanctify it to his name.”
As they awaited death the entire group sang the canticle of Zachary (see Luke 1:67-79). The executioners stood by respectfully until they had intoned the last verse. Then at a given signal they thrust their spears into the victims’ sides. On that day, February 5, 1597, the church of Japan welcomed its first martyrs.
Excerpt from Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi.

Wow Super Bowl Winners the Eagles Coach Kneels and Prays the Lord's Prayer with Team

The Eagles Team won the 2018 Super Bowl, which is the annual US Football game, under the leadership of coach Doug Pederson. After the game he gave a speech and knelt down with the team to recite the Lord's Prayer. (at 2:00)

Pope Francis “teach the people to adore in silence.” Homily at Vatican

Pope urges us to learn to do now what we will do in heaven: Adore!
At the Santa Marta Mass Pope Francis reflects on the way the people of Israel go up to the Temple with the Ark of the Covenant and adore God in silence
Report By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
In his daily homily  at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis began by reflecting on the first reading of the day, taken from the first book of Kings. The passage recounts how all the tribes of Israel came to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the LORD's Covenant to the temple. Pope Francis noted how they were making an uphill journey, carrying with them the two stone tablets that God had given to Moses on Mount Horeb.
He went on to reflect on our Christian journey, which, he said, is an upward climb, it is not always easy. The people of Israel, undertaking this uphill journey, are carrying the Ark of the Covenant to its resting place, and they bear a memory, “the memory of election”. In addition, the Pope said, the Ark of the Covenant was stripped of any ornamentation. It was stripped down to the tablets of the law: “In the ark, in fact, there was nothing except two stone tablets.”

Teach people to adore

As soon as the priests carrying the ark left the sanctuary, the glory of the Lord filled the temple with a cloud. “From the sacrifices that they made while they were on the uphill journey, to the silence of humiliation and adoration,” the pope reflected. Pope Francis asked pastors to teach the prayer of adoration which “many times, I think, that we do not teach to our people.”
“We know how to teach them how to pray, sing, and praise God, but to adore?” The pope defined adoration as the prayer “which annihilates us without annihilating us.” He took the opportunity of encouraging the newly installed pastors, present in the Casa Santa Marta chapel, to “teach the people to adore in silence.”

Listen and pardon

The Pope gave several keys that can be used in teaching adoration: “it is an uphill journey with the memory of election. We can only arrive there with the memory of having been chosen, of bearing within our heart the promise which pushes us to keep going with the covenant in our hand and in our heart.” In the presence of God’s glory, he said, “words disappear, we do not know what to say.” Anticipating tomorrow’s reading, Pope Francis suggested that we too use the only two words that Solomon was able to utter—“listen and pardon”.
It would good for us to take some time today, he said, to remember our journey, “the memory of graces received, the memory of election, of the promise, of the covenant.” And thus to go up towards adoration.

Jesus in the Eucharist - A Divine Portal of Heaven - Adore the Blessed Sacrament and See into Heaven!

Divine Portal of Heaven
by: Dr. Gary D. Knight
Anyone venturing to write or speak about the blessed Sacrament is immediately daunted by the sheer majesty of the subject. It’s even maladroit to call God a subject or object of inquiry. Against any prefatory remark: “may we penetrate the mystery of Christ”, flies the fact of He who penetrates us. Even ‘penetrating us’ goes awry, for we have no heft or density for Him to solve. All things are in His knowledge, in Him have their being, ‘darkness comprehending it not'. Only the light of faith can begin to reflect something of the light of God shining in and through this wondrous portal, the sacred host. 
 The words ‘in and through’ echo the canon’s through Him with Him and in Him, to glorify the Father and Holy Spirit. For we’d be amiss right away if thinking of any physical membrane or impersonal diaphanous cloak draping a portal, through which we peer dimly into Heaven. Jesus himself is this portal: as He said while walking in our midst “I am the way”, “I am the gate”. It’s very personal. 
 The sacred host is the only place where our bodily eyes can peer into eternity, even the vat of mercy that Jesus bestows from his own heart. There was, to be sure, a historic moment when pagan and unbelieving swordsmen could glimpse into this luminous well. Longinus pierced the side of Christ from whose heart flowed blood and water. By the Holy Spirit one of them even stuttered “truly this was the Son of God”. 
Here are three witnesses: the water, the blood, and the Spirit. Now we are blessed to encounter that living fountain in an unbloody manner, as Jesus offered it to his apostles at the last supper. The blood and water would come soon enough: that evening in His agony, but Jesus attested “I will not again drink of this cup till I drink it with you in my kingdom”. In the ‘now’ made everlasting in my memory, His presence is given us in the holy eucharist. Some brothers and sisters, petulant like Absalom against his faulted father David: David who retained authority to compose the Psalms, wonder that we worship and adore a ‘piece of bread’. Is bread not a symbol of spiritual feeding and our being pared and shared to our community? 
The idea is pious, but it is temporal and horizontal. It is far short of the Divine real presence of Christ in the flesh hypostatically united with humanity, fed us to nurture our supernatural souls. O Christ, from the divine mind you created us; in our bodies you bonded yourself to us. Gazing on the Lord who allows Himself to be held gently in a monstrance, is to behold the great salvation of souls. ‘It is the Lord’ said John, with the eyes of faith. If ashore He cooked fish for labouring disciples at sea, so now He prepares for those in exile a place in heaven, a place to which we gaze in Him. That “I am closer to you than hands and feet” we feel all the more proven in this presence. 
Frequent encounter makes us sound. For a time after the second world war, up to and through the Vatican council, catechists and others charged with pastoral care thought that adoration of the blessed sacrament presented in pyx or monstrance was ‘exterior’. There might have been too little interiority in people’s expression of faith (it may have been the case, but would that we had the numbers or zeal today) and their guess was that ‘arms length’ devotions like adoration were part of the problem. It was a terrible guess. We have, rather late in history, come to realize just how bad this guess was when it comes to adoration. The very pointedness of adoration is disconcerting; and with its own reward the effort to struggle past this engenders conscious prayer, like nothing else. Think of chaffing against the grain with an avoided acquaintance, knowing that a matter like neglect to attend a wedding or graduation needs attending to. With a halting effort made to broach the subject, it’s amazing how soon you both can move to a new level of friendship. A reason that prayer is so compelling in Jesus’ presence is that no-one can really be at arms length before Him. His appealing love is not some sort of debatable potentiality, but most potent reality. If preferring our mental category or image of Christ to being found by Him in the presence, we soon cool to its personal plenitude. That happens even if we have a practice of ‘protestative’ prayer: to recite or sing psalm 23 is not in itself to know the shepherd. What I’m calling protestative is what Shakespeare caricatured ‘methinks thou doest protest too loudly’. It may be a gong or cymbal clash rather than the sincerity and truth that the Lord calls for, and which we can hardly dress up when kneeling before Him. O Lord, let me hear your own protestations of love, not mine feigned.
Many have noted a loss in fervour or avocation in faith when they withdrew from prayer as real conversation. Some pressed on, with such as the breviary or litanies or rosaries; but found ownership of words authored by others a battle up hills of increasing slope. For some resignedly trudging on, faith or the recognition of grace as a received share in the divine life lost all meaning and interiority. It lost the heat of friendship with God in Christ, or a stirring of the heart by the Holy Spirit. But happily, not a few went back to find, almost despite themselves, that time in the presence of the blessed sacrament set for adoration, slowly and marvellously revived their souls. There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul. 
 Father Bob Bedard was a soul pained to be in horrid dryness. Before and after trauma as teacher of a class shot up by an armed youth (in minutes a young lady, young man, and assailant were all dead), father Bedard’s prayer life was in limbo. A deepening dryness had long term effects including clinical depression and dysfunction, where others had to pray for him. But he came slowly into wellness and the fulness of his calling through quiet time before the Lord in the monstrance. Jesus heals ! Father Bob went on to found a still growing and thriving community of priests and seminarians, the Companions of the Cross. Their ministries have extended into the United States of America, and have much reclaimed the Catholic charismatic movement from being strictly pentecostal, thanks mostly to their adoration chapels.
Some 35 years ago, the archdiocese of Toronto invited a Baltimore priest, father Joe Lupo, to come and try to inject new life into a vocational slump. In the aftermath of scandalous behaviour of seminary dons, even priests with promising protégées were wary, and few solid vocations were forthcoming. As well, parishes were in disconnect from each other, with many pastors in the field long-past burnout, with great dryness of spirit. Father Lupo had attracted the youngest of Canadian members of parliament, Sean O’Sullivan of nearby Hamilton, to leave behind a promising political career, and young father Sean instigated his invitation to stir things up in Toronto. Father Joe, already 80, was remarkable, full of zeal and not shy of what anyone saw as anachronism. He had a profound devotion to the blessed sacrament, spending much time in quiet adoration. At a ‘come and see’ weekend - including lay associates - father Joe asked “what can you guys suggest as a program of activity worth our engagement, that might deepen and animate the formation of our priests in seminary and after?”. One of us proposed a monthly all-night adoration program to circulate from parish to parish. We called it Nightwatch, and father Lupo grabbed it with both hands. Father Joe preached holy hour reflections monthly for a year, and parishes began to be receptive to this strange invasion of their usually staid churches every first Friday. In a few months the crowds attending, to midnight at least, were significant; and singing eucharistic hymns they kept from nodding off. People would report that they felt their flagging faith and moral strengths rejuvenated. Feeling his own age, father Lupo was recalled home, but left in place a superbly committed continuation in Spiritan father Ted Colleton, no youngster either. For a further few years, father Ted led Nightwatch adoration vigils followed by first Saturday morning Mass at dawn. Like father Joe, he preached holy hours, often having a reflection or litany led by a devout layperson at the top of an hour. It took no time in ecclesial terms for two outcomes. After 15 months, parishes were eagerly seeking to host a Nightwatch, their priests celebrating or concelebrating Mass with parishioners and choirs taking full part in holy hours for the ensuing adoration of Christ. Second, the number of new vocations or expressions of interest in priestly and diaconate formation saw a steady upswing, while more young people prayed for them. A third fruit was grapevine news trickling in that pastors had seen spiritual renewal, emotional and other healings, and an increase in youth participating in parish life. Their confessionals started to be used again, even with requests for regular hours. Some parishes began plans to establish perpetual adoration in chapels. With a rise in vocations inside of two years, father Sean took on their directorship. By 1988 Nightwatch was a going concern, limited only by the continued wellness of tireless father Ted. The harvest of true and prayerful vocations was inestimable. God rest your servants Joe, Ted, and Sean ! Near the end of my own sojourn in Toronto, I made late-night visits to a new perpetual adoration chapel. A regular visitor was one of the city’s auxiliary bishops. His prayer was that more bishops might avail of the wonderful encounter with their Lord, where He waits all night long. In Ottawa what struck me personally, besides the devout cell of St. Philip Neri who made something beautiful of eucharistic processions, was the adoration chapel set up by those who’d been praying for father Bob Bedard. In years after, he and the Companions found that not only their confraternity but the diocese benefited from the prayer-life that Jesus personally nurtured in the many souls who’d come to ‘watch an hour’ with Him. The most fruitful step for this extent of renewal is adoration.
Once in awhile my wife and I will sit together across the room and quietly read. However taken we are with our texts, the prevailing atmosphere is of togetherness and openness for either to respond to a word from the other, even something simple like ‘fed the cat?’, or ‘shall I put the kettle on?’. It could be a line offered for comment, or expressed concern for a friend or family member. That loving concord is also what Jesus wants and awaits. A personalist philosopher (perhaps Norris Clarke) said “the essence of personhood is presence”. It is the radical essential of Christianity: the religion of the Person, starting with the adored persons of God. We are persons for one reason only: that God is Person (three times for emphasis, as a grade 3 teacher put it). If God is Person ever-present, our relationship with Him has to be personal always. What greater Presence to nurture this, than the living body of the divine Lord still and presently waiting for us? You may protest “living bodies must breathe.” Yes, and He does! Breathing on the apostles He said receive the Holy Spirit. Spirit means breath. This “you know not whence it comes or where it goes” is the Spirit of love between Father and Son - lacking in nothing: in no perfection, including and above all, Personhood. If we are alive then to His presence, the breath is already breathing. Many beautiful lines are penned on the experience of adoration - prayers very amenable to time in the Presence. One I found most memorable and true was, on being asked what he or she did for the great length of time sitting before the Lord, a saint said “I gaze on Him, and He gazes on me”. Elizabeth Browning, or Song of Songs could have said it no better. It is the concord of Love. Like the amicable time of spouses, where both may be musing, or one embroiders as the other writes, the soul can follow exquisite occupation with the Lord. David danced before Him, and if you’re alone together who says that wouldn’t please the Lord? You may find yourself unburdened and crying before Him; the gift of tears is not unusual. My own conversion was anointed by unbidden tears leaping from my eyes in the presence of the tabernacle, cradled in a dark church in Banff. My breath was taken away too, just to show that it is the Spirit who breathes. And oh yes, my knees buckled. Being on the knees is appropriate posture coming into His presence. Moses put his face to the ground, so you find yourself moved, or at the very least you recognize it as apt. Rising, your eyes meet and are greeted by the Lord. For He desires us to come and watch with Him, as much as he desired of the apostles after supper. Then He was in agony; now he compassionately heeds the torments of the world. In it but not of it , we need His presence to abide the constant sign of contradiction that he’s made us to be. God signifies wonderful ‘contradictions’ in making himself so available in the consumable host. The maker of all things has deigned to invest his Person in a piece of flatbread, making Himself so low as to lift us high. So low that we eat and grind this wheat, this crushed grain not raised by fermentation, to be communited ourselves in His exalted body and blood. The blood He bled dropped down, that we who drink are lifted up from gravity of sin. The grain for wheat of many hosts had been sewn and died in earth. But it rose, and how great the promise of our life in His flesh, when we ourselves will pass ! When you peer at the white gleaming in the lunette, what you are is full, not of reflected light (however aptly that connotes humility), but brightly of Him infused. The glow will hardly suntan others like Moses’ radiance: a pride of life, my unworthiness, will not let it; but God is the one to see a glow that pleases him. True humility is to be self-forgetting in rapt partaking of His presence: the praise or thank’s omission to be humbly phrased is its humility.

#BreakingNews Turkish President Erdogan visits Pope Francis at the Vatican - 1st in 59 years

Pope receives Erdogan: Jerusalem, but also refugees, human rights and the condition of Catholics

The Turkish president meets Francis: the situation in the Middle East and the need to "promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and international law". Beyond the cordial climate and the good relations existing on the diplomatic level, there no full religious freedom in Turkey.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Middle East, and in particular Jerusalem, but also refugees, human rights and the situation of Catholics in Turkey were at the heart of talks between Pope Francis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  The Pope received the Turkish leader this morning at the Vatican, before the President’s meeting with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin accompanied by Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
A statement released by the Vatican states that “during the cordial discussions the bilateral relations between the Holy See and Turkey were evoked, and the parties spoke about the situation of the country, the condition of the Catholic community, efforts in the reception of the many refugees and the challenges linked to this. Attention then turned to the situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the status of Jerusalem, highlighting the need to promote peace and stability in the region through dialogue and negotiation, with respect for human rights and international law".
The meeting with the Pope lasted about 50 minutes, only the interpreters were present. "I thank you for your interest", said Erdogan to Francis, according to the journalists present. The Pope in turn thanked him for the visit.
Erdogan was accompanied by a delegation - a procession of about thirty cars and minivans - comprising twenty people. Among them also the president's wife and daughter and five ministers. There were six women in all (of whom four wore the veil).
At the time of the exchange of gifts, Francis gave Erdogan a medallion representing an angel and explained: "This is an angel of peace that strangles the demon of war. It is a symbol of a world based on peace and justice ". The Pope also offered Erdogan an etching with the design of St. Peter's Basilica as it was in 1600, a copy of the encyclical Laudato sì and the message for the World Day of Peace this year.
Erdogan gifted the Pope a large ceramic picture with the panorama of Istanbul and a box set of books by the Muslim theologian Mevlana Rumi.

Erdogan's visit to Pope Francis is the first visit of head of state from Ankara to the Vatican for 59 years. The last was Celal Bayar, received by John XXII, who had been nuncio to Turkey between 1934 and 1943.
Beyond the cordial climate and the good relations existing on the diplomatic level, it cannot be said that one can speak of full religious freedom in Turkey, despite the Constitution desired by Ataturk to affirming the secular state. Beyond the even violent episodes of intolerance – which culminated with the murder of Don Andrea Santoro in 2006 and Msgr. Luigi Padovese in 2010 - other incidents are not rare, even if fortunately not bloody.
In the country, the churches do not have legal personality, which prevents, among other things,  it owning religious buildings. This obstacle is sometimes overcome with the creation of false foundations that however fall under ordinary civil law. Thus, even a few weeks ago, there were confiscations of religious properties, including historical and ancient ones.
Moreover, it is forbidden for Christian churches to have the crucifix visible from the street. This is why, usually, the facade is hidden inside a courtyard. This is the case even for the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the highest expression of orthodoxy. And the patriarch, to whom no supranational role is recognized, must be a Turkish citizen.
Text News Release: from Asia News IT
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Today's Mass Readings and Video : Mon. February 5, 2018 - #Eucharist

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 329

Reading 11 KGS 8:1-7, 9-13

The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes,
the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel,
came to King Solomon in Jerusalem,
to bring up the ark of the LORD's covenant
from the City of David, which is Zion.
All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon
during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month).
When all the elders of Israel had arrived,
the priests took up the ark;
they carried the ark of the LORD
and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels
that were in the tent.
(The priests and Levites carried them.)

King Solomon and the entire community of Israel
present for the occasion
sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen
too many to number or count.
The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the LORD
to its place beneath the wings of the cherubim in the sanctuary,
the holy of holies of the temple.
The cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the ark,
sheltering the ark and its poles from above.
There was nothing in the ark but the two stone tablets
which Moses had put there at Horeb,
when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel
at their departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests left the holy place,
the cloud filled the temple of the LORD
so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud,
since the LORD's glory had filled the temple of the LORD.
Then Solomon said, "The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud;
I have truly built you a princely house,
a dwelling where you may abide forever."

Responsorial PsalmPS 132:6-7, 8-10

R. (8a) Lord, go up to the place of your rest!
Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
Let us enter into his dwelling,
let us worship at his footstool.
R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest!
Advance, O LORD, to your resting place,
you and the ark of your majesty.
May your priests be clothed with justice;
let your faithful ones shout merrily for joy.
For the sake of David your servant,
reject not the plea of your anointed.
R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest!

AlleluiaSEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

#Novena Prayer to Saint Agatha - Patron of #BreastCancer, #Virgins, #Assault Victims - Share!

Novena Prayer to Saint Agatha, Virgin Martyr. Oh St. Agatha, who withstood the unwelcome advances from unwanted suitors, and suffered pain and torture for your devotion to Our Lord, we celebrate your faith, dignity and martyrdom.Protect us against rape and other violations, guard us against breast cancer and other afflictions of women, and inspire us to overcome adversity. Pray also, Glorious Saint for the special favor we ask through you? (Here state your request) Oh St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, mercifully grant that we who venerate your sacrifice, may receive your intercession. O God, Who dost make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Thy people to love that which Thou dost command and desire that which Thou dost promise, that amid the changes of this world, our heart shall there be fixed where true joys may be found. Grant what we ask through the intercession of St. Agatha, we ask it through Jesus Christ Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end.Amen. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be Say for 9 days

Saint February 5 : St. Agatha : Patron of Breast Cancer; Bakers; Nurses; Rape victims; Single laywomen; Sterility

Born: Catania or Palermo
Died: 251, Catania
Patron of:
bellfounders; breast cancer; bakers; against fire; earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; jewelers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; rape victims; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wetnurses
One of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian antiquity, put to death for her steadfast profession of faith in Catania, Sicily. Although it is uncertain in which persecution this took place, we may accept, as probably based on ancient tradition, the evidence of her legendary life, composed at a later date, to the effect that her martyrdom occurred during the persecution of Decius (250-253). Historic certitude attaches merely to the fact of her martyrdom and the public veneration paid her in the Church since primitive times. In the so-called Martyrologium Hieronymianum (ed. De Rossi and Duchesne, in Acta SS., Nov. II, 17) and in the ancient Martyrologium Carthaginiense dating from the fifth or sixth century (Ruinart, Acta Sincera, Ratisbon, 1859, 634), the name of St. Agatha is recorded on 5 February. In the sixth century Venantius Fortunatus mentions her in his poem on virginity as one of the celebrated Christian virgins and martyrs (Carm., VIII, 4, De Virginitate: Illic Euphemia pariter quoque plaudit Agathe Et Justina simul consociante Thecla. etc.). Among the poems of Pope Damasus published by Merenda and others is a hymn to St. Agatha (P.L., XIII, 403 sqq.; Ihm, Damasi Epigrammata, 75, Leipzig, 1895). However, this poem is not the work of Damasus but the product of an unknown author at a later period, and was evidently meant for the liturgical celebration of the Saint's feast. Its content is drawn from the legend of St. Agatha, and the poem is marked by end-rhyme. From a letter of Pope Gelasius (492-496) to a certain Bishop Victor (Thiel. Epist. Roman. Pont., 495) we learn of a Basilica of St. Agatha in fundo Caclano, e.g., on the estate of that name. The letters of Gregory I make mention of St. Agatha at Rome, in the Subura, with which a diaconia or deaconry was connected (Epp., IV, 19; P.L., LXXVII, 688). It was in existence as early as the fifth century, for in the latter half of that century Rieimer enriched it with a mosaic. This same church was given the Arian Goths by Rieimer and was restored to Catholic worship by Pope Gregory I (590-604).
Although the martyrdom of St. Agatha is thus authenticated, and her veneration as a saint had even in antiquity spread beyond her native place, we still possess no reliable information concerning the details of her glorious death. It is true that we have the Acts of her martyrdom in two versions, Latin and Greek, the latter deviating from the former (Acta SS., I, Feb., 595 sqq.). Neither of these recensions, however, can lay any claim to historical credibility, and neither gives the necessary internal evidence that the information it contains rests, even in the more important details, upon genuine tradition. If there is a kernel of historical truth in the narrative, it has not as yet been possible to sift it out from the later embellishments. In their present form the Latin Acts are not older than the sixth century. According to them Agatha, daughter of a distinguished family and remarkable for her beauty of person, was persecuted by the Senator Quintianus with avowals of love. As his proposals were resolutely spurned by the pious Christian virgin, he committed her to the charge of an evil woman, whose seductive arts, however, were baffled by Agatha's unswerving firmness in the Christian faith. Quintianus then had her subjected to various cruel tortures. Especially inhuman seemed his order to have her breasts cut off, a detail which furnished to the Christian medieval iconography the peculiar characteristic of Agatha. But the holy virgin was consoled by a vision of St. Peter, who miraculously healed her. Eventually she succumbed to the repeated cruelties practised on her. As already stated, these details, in so far as they are based on the Acts, have no claim to historical credibility. Allard also characterizes the Acts as the work of a later author who was more concerned with writing an edifying narrative, abounding in miracles, than in transmitting historical traditions.
Both Catania and Palermo claim the honour of being Agatha's birthplace. Her feast is kept on 5 February; her office in the Roman Breviary is drawn in part from the Latin Acts. Catania honours St. Agatha as her patron saint, and throughout the region around Mt. Etna she is invoked against the eruptions of the volcano, as elsewhere against fire and lightning. In some places bread and water are blessed during Mass on her feast after the Consecration, and called Agatha bread. (Text- The Catholic Encyclopedia)