St. Agnes: An Ancient Lesson for Today

St. Agnes lived between 291 A.D. – 304 A.D. and was the daughter of a wealthy family in Rome. The details we know about her are few, but what we do know can serve as the antidote to cure the troubling year we have traveled through and light our path to journey through the uncertain future which lies ahead. Her three defining traits were her beauty, her certainty of faith, and her unrelenting decision to consecrate her entire life to Christ. 

Agnes lived during a time when Christianity was still illegal in Rome. However, her faith was not determined by the masses which attempted to strip humanity from their true orientation. She was not deterred from forming an authentic prayer life at a young age and deciding that she desired to hand over her whole entire life to Christ. This young girl entrusted the totality of her life and future to Jesus by declaring she was to be a consecrated virgin who would live a life of prayer and service to the Lord.

The main problem with this was her beauty. Several notorious men in the community were captivated by her appearance, and the line to propose to her was strong and lengthy. Agnes would humbly reject the offers by these men, not because she believed marriage to be unholy, but simply because she knew that God was calling her to live differently. The call and promise she made as a young girl was final in her eyes, and had to be respected, never violated. 

“I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me,” Agnes would say in response to these offers in marriage. The more men who proposed, the more men who became embarrassed and even vengeful because their pride was hurt by this young, innocent girl. Finally, she frustrated the wrong man (the son of a Roman Governor) and he turned her name over to the authorities as a Christian believer.

This man went as far as to bring her to the governor himself, who attempted to lure Agnes with the promise of wealth and material possessions if she denied her God and married the official’s son. When he did not succeed, he placed the young virgin in chains and sent her to prison. Once it became clear that she would not change her mind and heart the governor had her put to death. On the way to her death she exclaimed, “He (Christ) chose me first and He shall have me!”

There are various accounts regarding the details of her martyrdom and how her execution was accomplished, but the facts which are clear is that she had an unwavering faith and commitment to saying yes to God despite what the world said was normal, good for her, or even declared as legal. The countless men who pursued her most likely attempted to seduce her with material and physical pleasures, along with a comfortable life in the finest homes. Others may have pleaded with her to give up on this lofty craving to serve the God of the outcasts and of the poor. All of these failed in convincing her that the truth of Jesus’ intimate presence and power was worth betraying.

In our country today there is a constant crashing of secularism and materialistic waves falling upon the shores of Christian hearts. Our streets were invaded with violent riots and looting over the summer, our nation was shut down because of a pandemic, the multitudes are struggling financially, and even our country’s Capitol was laid under siege. The implicitly evil demands of our society are mounting their stallions to convince more Christians that there is no hope. You must pick a tribe and be radical in defending an earthly cause or person. 

Throughout the months and even ages leading up to this day, Christ stands in the breach, in the gap between who we are and who we are meant to be. St. Agnes is pleading with us today to follow her lead, which was ultimately the example of her savior. Say yes to God, humbly stand in the fertile ground of faith, and never waver in the truth that God is the only one who can set us free from debauchery, upheaval, crime, sin, evil and death. 

St. Agnes, pray for us, and aid us in being conformed to the redeemer of the world who undoubtedly sets captives free and leads the march on to a renewed future where his cross and resurrection are clinged to with fervor and unwavering faith. 

image: Best Bolan /

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Thomas Griffin teaches in the Religion Department at a Catholic high school, and lives on Long Island with his wife and son. He has a master’s degree in theology and is currently a masters candidate in philosophy. Follow his latest content at 

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