St. Agatha is one of those virgin saints from the early church that tends to be overlooked by many feminist-minded Catholics. Her story, like those of many other women saints, has been told through the male gaze by male hagriographers. So the emphasis is on her willingness to be gruesomely tortured rather than give up her virginity.
Agatha is the patron saint of Catania, Sicily, where her relics reside and are featured in an annual festival in her honor. And there’s a feminist filmmaker who wants to retell her story.
Bernadette Wegenstein first became interested in the story of St. Agatha while doing a project on women with breast cancer. (Because legend has it that Agatha’s breasts were cut off as part of her torture, she is the patron saint of those suffering from breast cancer.) She was very taken by the festival in Catania, and the broad devotion of the people to their patron saint. She’ll be using live footage from the festival, as well as animated scenes of Agatha, in the film.
You can read all about it at the crowdfunding site — there’s a wealth of information there, and a short film in the “Updates” section as well as the one I’m linking to below. The deadline to pledge is the end of June, and they’re already at 92% of their goal, so they only need a little more help to put them over.
But I thought my readers might be particularly interested in one of the giveaways. During the festival, the faithful traditionally kiss the reliquary (in which the relics are kept) as a sign of devotion. For hygienic reasons, the reliquary is then wiped down with cotton squares. But because these cotton squares have been in contact with the relics, they are traditionally understood to be blessed. (I wonder if they might even be considered 3rd class relics? but maybe not, because of the reliquary in the way.) It is not permissible to sell these squares, but the project has been given 20 that they may give as thankyou gifts for a donation of $30. Only 3 of the 20 have been claimed so far.
So whether it is saints, relics, or feminist theology that is your thing, I encourage you to pop over and pledge to help support this worthy project.
St. Agatha, pray for us!