Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Feast of St. Agnes - January 21st

"Eve of St. Agnes" by Millais, based upon the poem by John Keats

Agnes was a Roman teenager who became a virgin martyr of the early Church. Her life, though short, is one full of inspiration, especially in our culture which looks down upon virginity and chastity.

At a very young age, Agnes consecrated herself to God and took up the mantle of lifelong virginity. However, when she was thirteen, her parents contrived to give her in marriage to a pagan--and not just any pagan: Procop, the Governor's son. Refusing to break her vow of virginity, Agnes declared passionately, "Jesus Christ is my only spouse!"

Procop, however, wouldn't take no for an answer. He tried to win his betrothed over with rich gifts and fervent promises, but Agnes would not be moved.

"I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe," she told him. "He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said that He will never leave me!"

Finally, Procop became angry and accused Agnes of being a Christian before his father. The Governor had Agnes tried, and she was convicted, put in chains, and finally when she refused to be bribed or coerced to renounce her faith, she was sentenced to death. It is said that even the pagans cried to see so beautiful and sweet a girl going to her death and that Agnes' face shown like a bride on her wedding day as she was led to execution. To those who begged her at the last to save herself, she responded, "I would offend my spouse if I were to try to please you. He chose me first, and He shall have me!"

Agnes' feastday is celebrated on January 21st. She is the patron of betrothed couples, chastity, the Children of Mary, gardeners, Girl Scouts, girls, rape victims, and virgins.

Many traditions and superstitions have grown up around St. Agnes's feast that have to do with girls divining who their future husband will be. For example, in one corner of the world, it is said that if an unmarried girl eats a hard-boiled egg whole--shell and all!--she'll see an image of her future husband in the mirror when she brushes her hair that night. While Christians are forbidden from engaging in fortune-telling and magic, it is absolutely appropriate for a young girl to dream about and especially to pray for her husband. Rather than downing an egg, you might encourage your daughters (and sons!) to say a prayer for their future spouses--whether that spouse be a person or, as was the case with St. Agnes, the God of the Universe Himself.

St. Agnes's feast is also a wonderful opportunity to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and to talk about the consecrated religious life with your children.

If you have teenagers, you might also like to open things up for a discussion on virginity, chastity, and related subjects like religious vocations and dating, once the younger children are in bed--no holds barred. Trust me, they have questions! Truly, it is a blessing and a privelege if you can be the one to give them the answers. If you don't know, write their questions down and consult your Catechism or your parish priest at the earliest opportunity.

Finally, as St. Agnes symbol is a lamb (her name comes from the Latin agnus, meaning "lamb"), you might want to consider making a lamb craft or trying one of these recipes from Catholic Cuisine for a lamb-themed treat.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about the lives of the early Christian Saints; especially the women. St. Agnes is an inspiration; so are St. Felicity & St. Perpetua!


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