Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

St. Agnes suffered martyrdom in Rome in the second half of the 4th century, and is the patron saint of chastity. Pope Saint Damasus adorned her tomb with verses.

Newsroom (22/01/2022 7:44 PM, Gaudium Press) January 21, the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of St. Agnes, who was martyred at the age of twelve. The story tells that one day, on her way home from school, the son of the mayor of Rome fell in love with her.

After finding out about the girl’s parents, he offered her the most splendid dresses, valuable stones, and promised her other things, wealth, houses, all the delights of the world, if she would consent to marry him. Agnes repelled the gifts with contempt and told the young man that she was engaged to a much nobler man than he, who had already given her much more priceless gifts.

The mayor’s son, in despair, fell ill. The doctors discovered the cause of his illness and warned his father, the mayor, Sinfronio, who had the offerings and requests renewed to the virgin. Agnes answered that she would never fail in her commitment to her fiancé. The mayor found it strange that there was another favorite and tried to find out who it was.

St. Agnes is taken to the court in Rome

One of his friends then told him that the young woman had been a Christian since childhood, and that, bewitched by magical arts, she called Christ her husband. Overjoyed at the discovery, he ordered the prefect to conduct her, with apparatus, to his court. Agnes was equally insensitive to flattery and threats. The mayor called the young woman’s parents, and unable to mistreat them, because they were noble, presented the accusation of Christianity.

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The next day, after new and useless efforts to persuade her, he told her: “It is the superstition of the Christians, of whom you boast to know the magical arts, that prevents you from following good advice. You must therefore go immediately to the goddess Vesta, so that, if you are pleased with perpetual virginity, you may attend night and day to her august sacrifices.

The Saint replied, “If, for love of Christ, I refused your son who, though tortured by a love without rule, is still a living man, capable of reason and feeling, how can I, in defiance of the supreme God, worship mute, deaf, insensitive, inanimate idols, useless stones in a word?” The prefect replied, “Choose one of two things: either you will sacrifice to the goddess Vesta with her virgins, or you will prostitute yourself, in a very bad place, with the daughters of bad life.”

Saint Agnes is preserved from Carnal Impurity

It was then that Agnes said to him with assurance: “If you knew who my God is, you would not speak this way. I, who know the strength of my Lord Jesus Christ, despise your threats, certain that I will not be polluted by the impurities of others, nor will I sacrifice to your idols; I have with me as a guard of my body the angel of the Lord.” Indeed, having been taken to a den of prostitution, there she encountered the angel of the Lord, who surrounded her with a light so splendid that no one could see her.

Having begun to pray, she saw in front of her a white robe with which she covered herself, blessing God. The place of infamy thus became a place of prayer and piety. Whoever entered there was touched by a religious aspect at the sight of that unexpected light, and left purer than when he entered.

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The mayor’s son, calling everyone a coward, threw himself into the middle of the light, but fell down lifeless. One of his companions, seeing him dead, cried out, “Help! A prostitute has magically killed the mayor’s son! The people threw themselves into the room, shouting, “She’s a witch! She’s innocent! It’s sacrilege!”. When the mayor heard of his son’s death, he rushed in, in great distress, telling the saint that she was the most cruel of all women, and asking her how she had killed her son. She replied that the boy had been suffocated by the impure demon whose designs he sought to carry out.

Saint Agnes resurrects the son of the mayor of Rome

The proof was manifest, for those who had respected the angel’s luminous presence had come out safe and sound. The mayor replied that he would believe her words, if she would ask the angel to return her son to him. “Although your faith does not deserve it,” replied the young woman, “it is time for the power of my Lord Jesus Christ to be manifested. They all went out, and she prostrated herself and begged the Lord, with tears, to resurrect the young man. The angel appeared and restored him to life. The young man began to cry out, “There is only one God in heaven and on earth, and that is the God of Christians.”

At those words, all the priests and pontiffs of the temples trembled, and incited the people to sedition. They all shouted, “Down with the sorceress, who tries to change our beleifs and is causing a distrubance!” The prefect, faced with such great wonders, was astonished. But he feared a riot, should he act against the pontiffs and defend Agnes against his own sentence. So, sadly, leaving his deputy in his place, he walked away.

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The Martyrdom of Saint Agnes

The deputy, named Aspasius, commanding a large fire to be lit and threw the saint into it. But the flames, moving to one side and another, burned several of the spectators. Agnes, arms outstretched, was blessing God for his wonders, when the fire suddenly went out. The pagans shouted even more against witchcraft. The deputy, finding no other means to appease the enraged crowd, let the saint die by the sword. (EPC)

(Life of the Saints, Father Rohrbacher, Volume II, pp. 73 to 77)

Compiled by Camille Mittermeier


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