Today we celebrate the life and death of Agatha, a woman who was faithful to Jesus. Those of us of a certain age remember when there was only one Eucharistic prayer. Every time we went to Mass we heard the names of faithful women of the early church: Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia.
We know very little about these women but what we do know is that they understood that it is very dangerous to defy power. The word martyr means “witness”. They witnessed to what Jesus did and what Jesus said and they are our sisters.
There have been martyrs in every age since the time of Jesus. There are some martyrs that I remember in a special way, witnesses in the 20th and 21st centuries:
December 2, 1980, El Salvador: Ita Ford, Maryknoll Sister; Maura Clarke, Maryknoll Sister; Dorothy Kazel, Ursuline Sister; Jean Donovan, a volunteer from the archdiocese of Cleveland.
October 20, 1992: Liberia: Sisters, the Adorers of the Precious Blood, Shirley Kolmer, Mary Joel Kolmer, Barbara Ann Muttra, Agnes Mueller, Kathleen McGuire, and 4 Liberian sisters
February 12, 2005: Brazil, Dorothy Stang, Sister of Notre Dame de Namur . Fidelity comes at a very high cost.
There is a very slight chance that any of us will be raped and murdered because we are followers of Jesus. But we still have to answer the questions,
“To what/ to whom do we witness with our words and deeds?” Can we/will we die to pettiness, anger, jealousy, fear, disappointment, shame, anything that keeps us from being fully alive in Jesus?
Mary Keefe, OP