Friday, March 9, 2018 at 6:37 PM
5th Annual 40 Hours Devotion March 14-16, 2018

St. Agnes of Rome

Dear Friends,

After the festival celebrations of Christmas and the Epiphany we now return to our weekly meditations on the saints of the liturgical year.   This Friday the Church honors St. Agnes of Rome, one of the glorious martyrs of the Early Church period.   Agnes, whose name in the Latin agnus means “lamb” and in the Greek hagnÄ“ means “chaste or pure” was born in the year 291 A.D.  She was considered to be the model of saintly purity that two feasts were celebrated in her honor in the old liturgical calendar prior to the Second Vatican Council (her anniversary of her martyrdom, January 21 and her birthday January 28).   St. Agnes (Santa Ines) is the patron saint of chastity and purity.  

According to tradition, Agnes was born of Roman nobility but raised as a Christian.   She suffered martyrdom at around the age of 12 during the Roman persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian on January 21, 304.   One of the Roman officials, named Sempronius arranged his son to be wedded to Agnes.   Agnes refused, claiming her commitment to virginity to Jesus Christ.   The Roman prefect was enraged an had Agnes condemned to death.  However, because Roman law forbade the execution of virgins, legend has it that the prefect had Agnes stripped naked and dragged through the streets inviting men to sexually assault her.   As tradition has it every man who attempted was struck blind and the more she prayed the longer her hair covering her body.   Another legend has it that the son of the Roman prefect was struck dead.   Eventually Agnes is put to death by beheading after several attempts to burn her.   Immediately following her death, she was honored as virgin-martyr.     

One of the traditions surrounding the feast of St. Agnes is that on this day two lambs will be presented to the Pope in Rome brought from a Trappist monastery in the city for the Holy Father to bless.  Then on Holy Thursday the lambs are shorn and their wool is woven to make the pallium which the Pope gives to newly consecrated Archbishops as a sign of their jurisdiction and their union with the Holy Father.  

Of her death, St. Ambrose of Milan writes “the more hateful was the cruelty, which spared not so tender an age the greater in truth was the power of faith which found evidence even in that age.  Was there room for a wound in that small body?”  In this young girl, the faith brilliantly shone in spite of the great cruelty and evil of men.   In her the virtue of courage was modeled and displayed for the world to see.   As she faced death she is reported to have said: “It would be an injury to my spouse to look on any one as likely to please me. He who chose me first for Himself shall receive me. Why are you delaying, executioner? Let this body perish which can be loved by eyes which I would not”.   As we honor this young Christian, let us in turn seek her intercession for all of our young people, especially the girls of our parish community that inspired by the strength, fidelity, and purity of St. Agnes of Rome they too might enjoy the saving friendship of the great Conqueror of Sin and Death, Jesus Christ. 

In the Lord Jesus,
Fr. Vásquez


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