About two years ago, my eldest daughter at the age of four showed me a painting of St. Agatha’s martyrdom that she found in a children’s book of saints. The painting shows a deathly pale St. Agatha after the torture impose upon her of cutting off her breasts, gesturing in a pleading manner up to Heaven. A sorrowful looking woman is holding her from behind, pressing a bloodied cloth against the wound. And her breasts are being carried away on a platter. My second daughter at a similar age was fascinated by this painting and by this martyrdom, in her turn. She still has a great devotion to St. Agatha, though she has not yet asked to carry a basket of bread to the All Saints day party at our church. I will say that I have not yet been explicit with them about the details of her death.
My children’s wonder at martyrdom has always been prevalent in our
discussion of the saints, and the manner of the saint’s death is often
the first thing they inquire about. Christians should draw strength from
the witness of the martyrs, and in my children’s youthful innocence,
they see something appealing in martyrdom, in making a sacrifice.
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