Church Triumphant: St. Agnes of Rome

It’s saint time! Tiffany and I always look to the saints for inspiration, help and friendship. Most of all, we love to collaborate and share our findings with our readers. This month, she will be sharing a wonderful post on St. Blaise. Here, we will learn about St. Agnes of Rome, a virgin martyr. I knew nothing of her until I received the January Magnificat. I always read the last few pages first. It’s the only time I can! They share a beautiful painting featuring a saint within the respective month. I saw this painting and loved it immediately. When I read the account of the saint, I had to share it with all of you.

Church Triumphant: St. Agnes of Rome a new post by @fillpraycloset
St. Agnes in Prison (1641), Jusepe de Ribera, (1591-1652)

St. Agnes was born c. 291 A.D. Her feast day is January 21st, but before 1970, an additional feast was celebrated on January 28th. More important than when St. Agnes was born was when and how she died. When St. Agnes was thirteen years old, she refused Eutropius, then the son of the prefect of Rome. Eutropius fell in love (some say lust) with the young girl and just had to have her. He tried to win her over with gold and jewels, asking her parents for Agnes’ hand in marriage. She flatly refused claiming that she already belonged to someone else. How could this be? How could anyone in 304 A.D. refuse precious jewels, and status to boot? Who would refuse that now?

Eutropius was lovesick and fell ill and told his father, the prefect, that he had to do everything in his power to change her mind, or he would die. He just had to have her. Eutropius’ father tried to persuade her and she replied with complete and utter refusal. The prefect was outraged and jealous for his son that she would prefer another so he inquired as to who this “other” could be. He found out that the “other” she preferred was Jesus Christ. (But we already knew that. Doesn’t this read like a novel?!)

Sadly, at the time, there was an official order banning Christianity so the prefect knew that he could “get back at her” for her “insolence”. In retribution he threatened to torture her should she not submit to the gods of Rome. The torture was horrid. Remember, this is a 13 year old girl. He had her dragged through the streets of Rome, naked to a brothel, where she would be made to witness all the debauchery that went on inside. When the guards saw her naked body, she only bent her head in shame as her the hair on her head grew to cover her.

Legend says that when she was sent to prison, Eutropius tried to rape her but was killed by an angel only to be revived by St. Agnes. Eutropius paid her in kind by condemning her to death for using magic. She went to her death a happy bride, knowing she would see her betrothed, Jesus Christ in just moments.

According to New Advent:

Since the Middle Ages St. Agnes has been represented with a lamb, the symbol of her virginal innocence. On her feast two lambs are solemnly blessed, and from their wool are made the palliums sent by the Pope to archbishops.

St. Agnes is also the patron saint of young girls. It was custom to practice a ritual on January 20th, St. Agnes Eve, where young girls would view their future husbands. This custom is captured in a poem by John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes. A snippet:

   They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve,
       Young virgins might have visions of delight,
       And soft adorings from their loves receive
       Upon the honey’d middle of the night,
       If ceremonies due they did aright;
       As, supperless to bed they must retire,
       And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
       Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

I shared that I am using a Busy Mom devotional this year, and I have been keeping to it. Just recently, I read the scripture attached to the devotion that related so well to this saint.

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:27-28

St. Agnes was offered jewels, wealth and probably great notoriety for her time. She knew His voice, and followed Him, regardless of the earthly gifts offered to her, of the earthly pain, shame and death that no doubt she knew would await her. Her steadfast faith, her flat replies of no on earth, led her to eternity in heaven and the communion of saints. Thinking about celebrity, the viral nature of social media, which we all know I love. Can we remember what we are meant for? Can we remember His voice in those moments when we are tempted by the world in whatever capacity. I’m not saying that we need to perfect. I am saying that we need to be still enough to hear Him, and remember what He sounds like for those moments where we feel like we’re bombarded by everything.

Please head over and celebrate St. Blaise, patron saint of throats at Tiffany’s place.

St. Agnes of Rome, pray for us!

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