Agnes lived in the fourth century. She was a beautiful young woman and daughter of a wealthy Roman family. She had decided as a young girl that because of her deep love and devotion to God, she would remain an unmarried virgin. Wanting nothing more than to serve the Lord, she consecrated herself to Him and endeavored always to live a pure and devout life.
It wasn’t long before her beauty and piety brought the wrong kind of attention. A young man by the name of Procop, who was the governor’s son, tried to court her without success. Angered by her rejection, he denounced her as a Christian and took her to his father. The governor tried to persuade Agnes to denounce her Christian faith, but she refused. He had her put in chains, but this did nothing to change her mind. He then sentenced her to a life of prostitution, but no one came near her. It is said that an angel protected her. Finally, seeing that nothing would persuade her to turn her back on her faith and marry his son, the governor condemned her to death. It is said that even the pagans were tormented to see such a young, beautiful woman put to death.
It is said that Agnes spoke these words while being begged to ask for pardon: “I would offend my Spouse if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!” With those words, she bowed her head and received the death-blow from the executioner.
While all the details of Agnes’s life are not known, it is certain that she was martyred and buried on the Via Nomentana, where a cemetery was named after her. She has become a great Christian symbol of virginal innocence.
Dear Agnes, we pray that you will continue to inspire not only women, but all Christians to put God above all people and all things. Help us to see how we can consecrate everything we do and say to Him and for Him. Thank you, Saint Agnes, for your intercession. Amen.
image: Santa Maria degli Angeli (Folio 32v) depicts St Agnes in an initial M. This initial begins the introit to the Mass for the feast of St Agnes on January 21 via Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons