Next Monday, 5th February, is the memorial of St. Agatha (d. 251), the patron Saint of Catania in Sicily (pictured). Like St. Agnes last month, St. Agatha is commemorated in Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon. She is said to have been a young noble Sicilian, who had dedicated herself and her virginity to God as a child. She rejected the advances of an amorous consul who exposed her as a Christian during a time of imperial persecution. She was condemned, tortured and humiliated, yet she refused to renounce her faith. One of her most gruesome ordeals was the cutting off of her breasts, although she was miraculously healed and encouraged by a vision of St. Peter, as she lay in prison, mutilated and in agony. She eventually died after being rolled over red hot coals, inviolate to the last. Her last prayer to Christ was ‘Lord, receive my soul,’ after which she breathed her last. Her cult became hugely popular in Italy. A church was constructed in her honour in the fifth century and Saint Gregory the Great included her name in the Roman Canon of the Mass. She was invoked against fire and, by extension, against the unpredictable eruptions of Mount Etna. She is also the patron of bell-founders through her association with a warning bell rung to alert folk of a fire or an imminent eruption.