Posted by: fvbcdm | January 21, 2013

Feast of Saint Agnes (21 Jan 2013)

Each year on January 21, a Mass is celebrated in Rome at the basilica of Saint Agnes, the 13-year-old girl who gave her life rather than renounce her faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ or the virginity which she had vowed to him. That occurred during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, about the year 300 A.D. At the Mass of which I am speaking, two lambs are offered along with the bread and wine of the offertory. After Mass, those lambs are entrusted to the Benedictine Sisters in their monastery near the heart of Rome; the Sister raise the lambs. The first shearing of those lambs provide the wool which is then used to make the pallia—those strips of cloth worn by the Pope and the archbishops of the church as a special sign of their authority for God’s people. The pallia are kept in a special container in the crypt of Saint Peter’s Basilica, directly under the main altar and above the tomb of the Apostle Peter.

The reason for all this ceremony is that the name “Agnes” comes from the Latin word “agnus,” which means “lamb.” Our Saint Agnes, whose feast is today, is one of the most famous, prominent, and popular saints down through the seventeen centuries since she died happily because her death was to unite her with Jesus, her heavenly bridegroom. The early Christians were amazed that a child—especially a girl-child, since girls were thought to be less courageous than boys and men—would have the courage to face a terrible death so serenely and even joyfully in the name of Christ.

Agnes was a beautiful young woman—a child really, but sufficiently developed to arouse the lust of some young Roman pagan men. However, she was determined to preserve both her faith in Christ and her virginity which she had vowed to Him. When she would not consent to marry one of her pagan suitors, he denounced her as a Christian. She was taken to a house of prostitution next door to the arena which stood where the Piazza Navona now stands in Rome, the idea being that she could be persuaded there to imitate the behavior of those who frequent such places. Infuriated by her steadfast refusal to bow to their demands, the pagans killed her. In commenting upon her death, the church writer Tertullian wrote: how interesting that in the case of most Christians, they are simply condemned to the wild animals in the arenas; but this young girl was condemned to something worse: the lustful young pagan men of her time who quite deliberately coveted her for their own gratification.

Compare the beautiful mentality of Saint Agnes with that of so many young people in our culture today. They think nothing of their own virginity and physical integrity; in fact, many of them are eager to surrender these things as soon as possible, and I’m afraid that far more of our young people sin sexually than remain virginal and pure until marriage. We might well pray for our youth of today whose bodies and souls are being violated by the so-called “sex revolution” that is ravaging our society right now. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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