Tradition holds that Agnes was a young Roman noblewoman martyred under the Emperor Diocletian around the year 304. She is one of seven women mentioned by name in the Roman Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer 1). Her name comes from the Latin word agnus, meaning “lamb.” She is often depicted holding a lamb in witness to the innocence of her youth and her virginity. On this day in Rome, the Holy Father blesses the sheep whose wool will be woven into the pallia worn by archbishops.
The traditional story of Agnes assures us that holiness does not depend on age. Agnes was beautiful, and many men wanted to marry her. She refused each one because she had decided to remain a virgin. One of her suitors was so angry he reported to the governor that she was a Christian. The governor summoned Agnes to the palace. He threatened her with punishment and showed her the tortures they would use on her body. Agnes looked at the instruments of torture with heroic calmness. The governor eventually had her condemned and executed.
Patron: Affianced couples; betrothed couples; bodily purity; chastity; Children of Mary; crops; engaged couples; gardeners; Girl Scouts; girls; rape victims; virgins.
Symbols: Lamb; woman with long hair and a lamb, sometimes with a sword at her throat; woman with a dove which holds a ring in its beak; woman with a lamb at her side.
Suggestions to celebrate the Memorial of St. Agnes:
St. Agnes has her name in the first Eucharistic Prayer. There are six other women listed with her. Do some research, such as looking at a missalette, to find the names of the other saints and to find out why they are honored as saints also.
It is said that the blood of the martyrs brought life to the early church. Persecutions spurred growth. St. Agnes’ courage helped strengthen the courage of others. Have the children write down ways they can grow in Christian courage.
St. Agnes, one of the most popular saints, has always been regarded as a special patron of purity. Encourage your family to pray to her in times of temptation.
Resources from: Oriens – A pilgrimage through Advent and Christmas by Fr. Joel Sember; Catholic Culture; Saints and Feast Days