Saint Agatha

5th February

Let us go back in history! It is some time around 230AD. A beautiful girl was born to a noble family in Catania, Sicily. She was named Agatha. She grew to be an attractive young lady and naturally men sought her out for marriage. However, at an early age, she had decided to give her love only to Jesus, making a vow of virginity, so that she would spend her life in prayer and in service to others.

At the time, Emperor Decius had decreed that all the people of the Roman Empire had to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods. Christians were sought out and persecuted when they refused to obey. It is believed that at this time, Agatha and some of her friends fled from Sicily to take refuge in Malta. She spent her short stay there in a crypt, where she spent her time in prayer and teaching children about Jesus and the Faith. But after a short time, Agatha felt she had to be a witness to her faith in her own country.

On her return to Sicily, Quintiano, a high-ranking officer in the Roman Empire, forced Agatha to renounce her Christian Faith and marry him. Agatha stood firm. She was not only imprisoned, but she was subjected to horrifying tortures and indignities, that not only mutilated her body but humiliated her as a woman.

She died in prison, a few hours after her last torture.

She is the patron saint of Sicily. She is also one of the patron saints of Malta. The crypt where she stayed during her stay on the Island is still venerated in Rabat, Malta, and visited by both locals and foreigners.

The saints of the Church are considered  to be heroes because of their virtue of courage. The martyred saints are admired for their courage in martyrdom, other saints are admired for their courage in being steadfast in their love of God in spite of all setbacks. All saints continued to be courageous because they had Christ in their heart.

We cannot learn courage from a book! It is a ’step by step’ process that allows our children to have confidence in themselves and be able to take ‘healthy risks’. With our guidance the process will also develop into moral courage that will make them strong to stand up for what is right, for what they believe in.

Create an opportunity to listen to the kids’ opinion of what they consider to mean to have courage, to be brave.

  • Let them give examples from any brave characters they might have come across: from the Bible, from their favourite stories even from real life or people they know.

Discuss with them what it means for them to be brave and encourage them to talk about situations where they feel they had to be brave.

  • Let us identify situations when children show courage, even in accomplishments that we might consider insignificant and give them acknowledgement of it.
    Their inner strength will continue to develop, eventually spreading to a strength to strive bravely for what is right. The violent acts of torture that Saint Agatha was subjected to were not only meant to make her suffer but also to humiliate her.

Let us look for opportunities to give children the message that we are created in God’s image and likeness, so ‘everybody’ deserves respect.

Our role as parents/guardians is not only to help children deal with how to internalize messages of violence through images, stories, the media, but also to guide them become persons who are caring and responsible, nurturing qualities of empathy and concern for others.

Watch out for ‘teachable moments’ that provide opportunities to talk to the children with the main message that ‘violence does not equal strength.’

In a child’s world violence is expressed in aggressiveness. Use examples from family situations (eg. child’s outbursts of anger when they don’t have their way) to talk about how one can settle an argument or deal with anger. Listen as to how they feel, and then how to control anger and negative feelings.

  • Explain the difference between being assertive and aggressive, so that they feel that one can still have their say without outbursts of anger or by resorting to rough behaviour. Role-play a family situation taking different situations to bring out the difference.
  • Monitor what the kids are watching. Violent media messages make a great impact on young minds, when violent behaviour is projected as normal and necessary, while criminals are glorified as heroes.
  • Try to avoid exposure to these media messages. When they do come across them, process with them alternatives that lead to non-violent conflict resolution.

For Family Prayer Time let the children express their thoughts about what you would have talked about during the day, or a family situation that kids were involved in, followed by a prayer for courage and strength in their hearts.
You might encourage them to illustrate a poster with the message: “Be Brave – Spread Love.”

From a very young age, Agatha consecrated herself to God. One day, a man asked her to marry him, however, she insisted that she already married Jesus. They tried to convince Agatha, but she was determined to keep her decision to devote her life for Jesus. 

Treasure hunt!

Ask an adult to hide lots of small toys or sweets in your household. You need to look for these things in 15 mins. When you practise this game, you will realise that we need to be determined and never give up on what we need to do, and on what we love, like Saint Agatha. 

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.