Feast of St. Agnes
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
Jan. 21, 2008 (7am)
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Hanceville, AL)
Yesterday, we heard John the Baptist pointed to his disciples: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Today, we have one of God’s little lambs who shed her blood for the sake of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Her name is St. Agnes of Rome – virgin and martyr. Her name is mentioned in the first Eucharistic Prayer (Agnéte in Latin)
She died a martyr at Rome around the 3rd and 4th century at a very young age of twelve. She’s represented in holy images with a martyr’s palm and a lamb; a lamb because that is what her name means in Latin, agnus – like Agnus Dei – Lamb of God.
Usually, today, on her feast day two lambs are solemnly blessed at her church in Rome and their wool is woven into the palliums (bands of white wool) which the Holy Father confers on archbishops as a symbol of their jurisdiction on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Pope Damasus adorned her tomb with sacred poetry. Many Fathers of the Church, following St. Ambrose, have honored her in their writings. Pope Damasus tells us that immediately after the promulgation of the imperial edict against the Christians, Agnes voluntarily declared herself a Christian, and suffered very steadfastly the martyrdom of fire, giving scarcely a thought to the frightful torments she had to endure, and concerned only with veiling, by means of her flowing hair, her chaste body which had been exposed to the gaze of the heathen multitude.
Prudentius, in his description of the martyrdom, said that the judge threatened to give over her virginity to a house of prostitution, and even executed this final threat; but when a young man turned a lustful look upon the virgin, he fell to the ground stricken with blindness, and lay as one dead. It was only through Agnes’ prayers that his sight was restored.
In the Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Agnes, it records that the virgin St. Agnes is decapitated after remaining untouched by flames.
Besides meaning “lamb” in Latin, her name in Greek is AGNOS which means “pure”. And she is the patroness of purity (bodily purity).
Many blamed Roe v. Wade in 1973 (35 years ago) as the main cause for the numerous abortions today!
It’s true statement; but it’s even more true that the life of impurity is what led to the numerous abortions today! The life of impurity and the life of contraception mentality, all these paved the way to the horrible crime of abortion!
Pope Paul VI predicted in 1968 that if people did not respect human life from the beginning, they will not respect it in the end. He claimed that artificial contraception would lead to an increase in abortions, divorce, broken families, and other social troubles. Twenty-five years later, on the anniversary of the encyclical of Pope Paul VI’s On Human Life, Pope John Paul II wrote another encyclical entitled Gospel of Life. In it, he states that the prediction and warnings of Pope Paul VI have come true. (cf. Catholicism for Dummies, 383)
The life of impurity leads to the life of contraception! And the life of contraception paved the way to the horrible crime of abortion. These are the paths to death!
So the virtue of purity needs to be cultivated by everyone in all states of life – whether one is a priest, a deacon, a religious, a consecrated individual, husband, wife, or children. All of us need to cultivate purity.
And it is not easy to do that in today’s society but it is not impossible! Everything is possible with God’s grace! How much Jesus and Mary and all the Saints, St. Agnes of Rome – how much they are looking forward to help us overcome the various temptations that come our way!
Besides relying on them to assist us, here’s a short list on the way to help us grow in the virtue of purity. This is a short list and obviously there are more ways than what I’m about to give you (cf. The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood, 199).
1. Cultivate the contemplation of God as well as have a realistic devotion to Our Lady and the Saints.
2. Pray regularly for growth in chastity especially in times when one is not tempted (e.g.: Lord, grant me your grace that I would always be faithful to you and that I would remain pure in my dealing with others).
3. Make a sincere and frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist.
4. Make an effort to speak frankly and honestly with your confessor and spiritual director. The key is to speak “honestly and frankly” with him.
5. Avoid any friendship that is based mainly on sentiment and sensuality values. Avoid any friends who tend to always bring dirty jokes to the conversation If we constantly hear them, we are going to end up like our friends – telling dirty jokes to others. Avoid these kind of friendships but cultivate friendships that are based on cultural and spiritual interests.
6. Practice ascetical life in regards to food, drink and entertainment. This will lead us to mastery over our minds and hearts, our imagination and memory, emotions and instincts. In other words, practice self-denial on acts of mortification. When we do this, we are training our will to say no to legitimate things or pleasure so that our will may be strengthened to say no to temptations and to sin.
7. St. John Vianney said, “To preserve purity, three things are necessary; the practice of the presence of God, prayer, and the sacraments.”
8. He also said to read holy books, to put into your daily schedule the time to do spiritual reading.
9. And finally the last point is to remind yourself of death. When you are tempted to sin (perhaps to impure thoughts or actions), remind yourself or tell yourself, “What if I die right after I commit this particular sin mortally? I’d surely go to Hell!” This is like a little motivator not to give in to the temptation but to do everything we can to overcome them.
Like I said, this list is brief. Obviously, there are more ways to cultivate purity than what I have given you. These are some ways that may assist you in applying it practically.
May God’s little lamb, St. Agnes of Rome, intercede for us that we would be loyal to the faith she professed! And should we ever be disloyal, may God’s grace bring us to repentance!