Friday 5 February 2010

On my Birthday

It's probably just as well my parents didn't call me Agatha after the saint on whose feast I was born; I was teased enough at school. As it happened, I was going to be Alexander, "defender of man", but my great-grandfather's death shortly before I was born meant that I inherited the name of Joseph Spouse of Mary, and with it, the nickname Joe. So I was lumbered with the unfortunate name of Joe Smith, somewhere between John Smith and Joe Bloggs, but not quite as distinctive as either one of those anecdotal generic names. It took years of plumming out my accent and developing a more sensitive gait before I could convince my peers to address me as Joseph, and I'm still thinking of ditching Smith. It's a natural desire in many people to try to define themselves in some way against the collective so they stand out, and their individuality is recognised and accepted.

Among the hundreds of young female martyrs in the Church's first three centuries, some really do stick out, and their vitae have been made even more distinctive by subsequent generations who seek to honour them as their own. This seems to have happened to S. Agatha of Sicily, who died in Catania around 251 AD. Iconographic depictions of the saint have picked out of the tortures the most distinctively horrific one of this young girl having her breats cut off, and so it is that in many images of her, S. Agatha is pictured either undergoing this torture or carrying her breasts on a plate. S. Agatha is also one of seven women, excluding Our Blessed Lady who is mentioned by name in the Roman Canon, and so like S. Agnes whose feast we kept recently, we receive a special reminder that her prayers are joined with ours during the Holy Sacrifice.
I hope readers of this blog will pray for me on my twenty fifth birthday! I feel more and more like I need it in these uncertain days. This blog has always been a welcome distraction from some of the stresses of life, and also a source of pleasure to know that people are reading and enjoying the posts. God bless you, and may S. Agatha pray for you.


  1. Happy Birthday Joseph--God grant you many years!

  2. 25, oh so young, Joseph. Ad multos annos! Keep blogging, we need you!

  3. A happy and individual birthday to you!

    For what it's worth, I wasn't always Michael Astley. You be who you want. :-)

  4. Happy Birthday Joseph - I hope you had wonderful day. I must say your blog is truly inspirational - I love the way you write.

  5. So you were born fifty years all but a day before me: and I don't share Agatha, but Ronald Reagan and the Accession of Elizabeth II. Happy Birthday! +E

  6. I'll certainly pray for you! Happy Birthday :)

    Joseph Smith. Ah, that has implications here in the southwestern US LOL. You could reach back in your family history and choose another surname; That way, it's not a complete departure from familial history.