Friday, April 17, 2015

Patron Saint of Breast Cancer. Pray to St Agatha

All Saints Bracelet from Chris Hart Studio. 
Cancer knocked lightly on my door last week and I'm not sure yet if it is going to come in. For some of us, we don't recognize it early and we carelessly leave the door ajar. There are times cancer is invited in by a family member or because of our own actions, thinking we are invincible. It can simply come because it is determined to be in our lives and it can choose to visit many times. It's not a guest we welcome with an intentional invitation but one we have to learn to live with. When I heard the knock, I rushed to the door hoping it was only a fear and not a reality. Only time will tell.

We all known someone who has cancer.  I didn't realize the lady at the Post Office, who cheerfully helped put a hold on my mail was scheduled for a double mastectomy the next Tuesday.  The nice retired man, who works one day a week at the gas station is struggling with lymphoma and the businessman hitting balls on the driving range is waiting for his 3 month PSA results.  These people live their lives with an unwelcome guest, continuing to appreciate the ordinariness of their days.      

My grandmother had a radical mastectomy at 92 and lived another 10 years.  My aunt had a lumpectomy and radiation at 85.  She lived a long time before her heart wore out.  They lived with this inconvenient guest but they were not defined by it.  It was an inconvenience to rub soothing lotion on radiation burned skin.  It was an inconvenience that clothes no longer fit right.  It was an inconvenience to go for treatment daily for 8 weeks and an inconvenience to take a pill every day for five years.  These were inconveniences that they were grateful to have. I have St Agatha to thank for hearing our prayers and interceding on behalf of the women in my family. 

Painting by Giovanni Lafranco showing St. Agatha healed by St. Peter. 
St. Agatha (231-251) is best known as the Patron Saint of Breast Cancer and Diseases of the Breast.  She is also the one to pray to for help with earthquakes, fire and natural disasters, victims of sexual abuse and rape, torture, wet-nurses, sterility, jewelers, bakers and nurses.  She is an very busy saint.  Called upon by many for a variety of reasons. 

St. Agatha was born into a wealthy noble family and she was quite beautiful.  As a devoted Christian, she was persecuted when she refused the advances of Quintianus, a top military commander and consul in the Roman Empire.  Angry because of her steadfast rejection, he sent Agatha to a brothel.  When that didn't change her mind, he sent her to prison, thinking she would give in when faced with torture and possible death.  She endured months of assault and misery, never wavering.  She was repeatedly burned with fire, stretched on a rack, rolled naked in broken glass and hot coals and finally, had both breasts viciously cut off.  The story goes that in her final moments, an earthquake occurred and she was heard to say, "....You granted me victory over the executioners' tortures.  Grant now that I may happily dwell in Your never ending glory."      

Cancer forces us to acknowledge that our life on earth is temporary, that we are simply passing through. Some of us have an uneventful journey into the next world and some of us, like St. Agatha, have struggles and challenges that defy description.   A path is made when those who traveled before us find the best way to get to where they wanted to go.  How we travel the path of our journey is the true measure of our success on earth. St. Agatha's path reveals to us that faith, trust, love and kindness are what really matters.