I live in a house with four women: my Queen and three little princesses. It’s an estrogen factory; a kingdom of all things pink. When I say it’s pink I don’t mean it figuratively, it’s literal. I wake and sleep inside a Disney princess’ dream… it’s so pink that it looks like a Pepto Bismol factory exploded. Pink isn’t just in my house – everywhere you look in October, pink’s popping up.
Pink is in.
As many of you are aware, October in America is “Breast Cancer Awareness” month. Millions unite to support, walk, raise money, heighten awareness, and most importantly to pray for those families battling this horrible disease.
Now for some people that last sentence is troubling. You might have noticed that I offered prayer as the most important thing we can do in our battle against breast cancer. I’m in no way insinuating that research is not important – it is vital. Additionally, I’m not suggesting that greater awareness won’t aid in earlier detection and possibly even cancer prevention. What I am saying is that prayer takes all of these efforts – to support, to cure, to walk for and with cancer victims and their families – and puts them into right order. Prayer puts it all into God’s hands.
One of the great gifts we have as Catholics is a deeper understanding of the Communion of Saints, and the power of intercessory prayer. The saints and martyrs lived heroically virtuous lives. One such model of heroism and virtue is St. Agatha, who also happens to be the patron saint against breast cancer and breast disease.
Why? Well, little is known of St. Agatha historically speaking. We know that she was born in Sicily in the early-mid 3rd century and was martyred during the reign of Emperor Decius around A.D. 251. Most of what we know comes from tradition and some legend. Agatha was apparently raised in a wealthy and powerful family. Ancient texts speak of her remarkable beauty, and at a young age she dedicated herself (and her virginity) to God.
A high-ranking Senator named Quintianus was quite taken by her, but Agatha – dedicated to God and seeking only His love – spurned Quintianus’ advances and proposals of marriage. Enraged, Quintianus had her sent to and imprisoned in a brothel, in an attempt to break her of her ‘stubbornness.’ After a month of humiliation and assault, Agatha returned without ever breaking her vow. Even more aggravated, Quintianus then sent Agatha to prison and had her tortured. At one point, in the cruelest act of abuse, he even had her breasts cut off. At this time, St. Peter appeared to her in prison and, by the grace of God, healed her. All were amazed at her miraculous healing.
Over time, however, the assaults and beatings became more than her mortal body could bear, and she was martyred for the faith – still a virgin and very in love with the Lord. It is for this reason that St. Agatha is invoked as the patroness against breast disease, and is such an intercessory ally in the fight not only against breast cancer but against rape, abuse, and all other forms of mistreatment of women or assaults on human dignity.
Breast cancer is a common enemy, one that has the ability to unite people of faith with those souls who have yet to encounter or accept the love and the mercy of God. It’s in times like these that Catholics have a great opportunity to reach out in love, both to the family around them (on Earth) and the family that came before them (in Heaven).
In the “Pink Palace” that I call home there are four beautiful women who not only face the threat of disease, but of a culture that fails to promote or protect their feminine dignity. I see the realities and pray hard for each of them. This culture needs all the help we can get to change people’s perspectives: to better honor and protect women and to uphold the dignity of life in a culture of death.
St. Agatha is a model of virtue in our house…and she’s always welcome to join us in our family’s night prayers. Maybe you’d like to invite her into yours, too.