St Agatha - patron saint of our Parish.
Why and how does a third century saint become the patron saint of a parish in northwestern Sydney; a relatively new parish by world standards? The answer lies in the foundation of our parish many years ago. This is aptly described in detail in our History Page, however here is a shorter answer that goes some way to show the Spirit of our faith at work.
St Agatha was born at Catania or Palermo in Sicily. She was a highly revered saint in Sicily and the surrounding regions of Malta and Spain. While our parish origin can be traced back to 1820, we did not formally become a parish until 1928. At this time the parish was being ministered to by the Redemptorists Fathers whose order served the poor and neglected country people in those Mediterranean regions. Therefore, while the grace of our parish developed through the goodwill of many people and holy orders, part of our heritage belongs to the congregations of southern Italy.
St. Agatha's story
While many of the historical facts are difficult to confirm about St Agatha. We do know that she was martyred in Sicily during the persecution by the Roman emperor Decius around 251. According to legend handed down through the Christian community, Agatha was a beautiful young woman from a distinguished family who, instead of marrying, chose to remain a virgin as a sign of her complete devotion to Jesus Christ.
Such a lifestyle choice was at odds with the culture of her time and she became a target in the state's persecution of Christians. Taunted by the cruel Senator Quintianus who tried to break her spirit and commitment, Agatha showed unswerving firmness in faith. At the hands of Quintianus she was arrested, tortured, sent to a house of ill reputation to be abused and later put to death. Agatha is buried at the Badia di Sant'Agata, Catania.
St. Agatha speaks today
St. Agatha's story is a story of faith in the face of tragedy and brutality. It is deeply inspiring. It speaks of radical Christian fidelity, feminine strength, and youthful courage. St Agatha reminds us of the courage of so many people today. Her fidelity and chastity stand firm as exemplary virtues for all who stand committed in their Christian beliefs, even when they lack support from their peers or suffer ridicule.
St. Agatha encourages us all to have confidence and witness to the love and truth of Jesus. St Agatha demonstrated with her life unwavering commitment in the face of derision, pain and suffering. She can be our friend at times when we need strength and courage along the journey.
Pray with St Agatha
It is said that, upon her arrest, St. Agatha prayed:
“Jesus Christ, Lord of all things!
You see my heart; you know my desires. Possess all that I am.
Make me worthy to overcome evil.”
And in prison she prayed:
“Lord, my creator, you have protected me since I was in the cradle.
You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer.
Now receive my spirit.”
We can contemplate these prayers in the spirit of Lectio Devina by taking up a phrase from St Agatha's prayer and allow it to resonate in our minds and hearts for direction or comfort in our daily lives.
We are the faith community of St Agatha's Pennant Hills; part of the universal Catholic faith community. The faith of St Agatha was passed on from the communities in Italy to our early parishioners and finally to us. We have an identity that is aligned with our patron saint and a specific calling to bear witness as the body of Christ. This witness may be our personal trials, or on a wider scale, our resolution to social justice. In our joys and celebration of new life we are constantly called to trust in God with faith similar to St Agatha.