Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Saint Agnes of Rome
Virgin And Martyr
Saint Agnes of Rome (also known as Ines; Ines del Campo; Ynez) was a consecrated virgin martyr born in Rome. We have more ancient authority for the story of Saint Agnes than exists in many cases. Saint Jerome wrote of her as being venerated in his day, and her legend is one of the oldeststories of a saint. She had vowed never to marry when very young. At the age of 12 or 13, a young nobleman wanted to marry her, but, she refused since she had consecrated herself to Christ and said that to do so would be an insult to her heavenly Spouse. The young nobleman's father was the Prefect Sempronius, and upon learning Agnes had rejected his son and that she was a Christian, he ordered Agnes to sacrifice to the pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was taken to a Roman temple of Minerva (Athena), and when led to the altar, she made the Sign of the Cross. She was threatened, then tortured when she refused to turn against God. She was tortured by fire, then either decapitated or stabbed in the throat (sources vary) in 254 or 304 (again, sources vary).
Saint Agnes' virginity and heroism are renowned, and her name occurs in the prayer "Nobis quoque peccatoribus," in the Canon of the Mass. The catacombs of Saint Agnes on the Via Nomentana grew up around her crypt there, on a small piece of property owned by her family. The Christians constantly went to pray at her grave. She was the foster-sister of Saint Emerentiana, who was stoned to death by a crowd for praying at her sister's grave, when she admitted the relationship and that she too was a Christian.
As her parents and friends were paying their devotions at her tomb, she appeared to them in a glorified form, and beside her was a lamb whiter than snow. Agnes assured her friends of her perfect happiness, and again vanished, and from that time on, they no longer mourned her.
On Saint Agnes' feast day two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome, and then their wool is woven into the palliums (bands of white wool) which the pope confers on archbishops as symbol of their jurisdiction.