“In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.”
– St Ambrose
Who was St Agnes?
Agnes was a beautiful girl from a wealthy noble family in Rome, Italy. At a young age, she promised herself to Jesus with all her body. About her life not much can be said with certainty, but legend comes to our help. At the age of 13, she had a range of highranked young suitors. As she continued to refuse their attentions, they denounced her as a Christian, which was a crime at the time. The Prefect of Rome who investigated her case also made some advances, but she said: ‘I am already the spouse of a Lover much more noble and powerful than you.’ Enraged, he condemned her to be dragged naked through the streets of Rome into a brothel. She was thrown into a fire, but the flames were extinguished after her prayer. Finally, she was killed with a sword. Usually she is depicted with a lamb, a sign of her purity.
Collect for St Agnes
Almighty ever-living God, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant, that we, who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes, may follow her constancy in the faith. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui infirma mundi eligis, ut fortia quæque confundas, concede propitius, ut, qui beatæ Agnetis martyris tuæ natalicia celebramus, eius in fide constantiam subsequamur. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.
Pope St John Paul II on Love & Chastity
‘There is no way to comprehend chastity without the virtue of love… To be chaste means to have a “transparent” attitude to a person of the other sex… the desire to “enjoy” is subordinated to a readiness to show loving kindness in every situation… True chastity does not lead to disdain for the body… That is the result of false chastity, chastity with a tinge of hypocrisy, or, still more frequently, of unchastity… Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love… Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit.’
Image of St Agnes copyright Fr James Bradley.
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