In an earlier bulletin, we spoke of the paradox of a Child-God and a Virgin Mother; that of all the religions of which history makes mention, none has exalted virginity in its ethics and has attached more value to chastity, considered a heroic virtue of victory over oneself and of renunciation.
At every Holy Mass, we do recall a list of these early Virgins, many of whom also gained the crown of martyrdom, whose lives marked the early Church to such a point that their names were inserted in the Canon of the Mass: Felicity, Perpetua, Lucia, Agatha, Agnes, Cecilia… Today, is St Agnes’ feast day… A young saint of 13 years old who has two churches in Rome itself, one where the home of her parents was, the other where she was buried, outside the walls. Here what Fr. Gihr in his book on the saints of the Canon of the Mass has to say about her:
“What is most to be admired in her: the charm of childhood, or virginal innocence, or manly heroism? Agnes, the child of wealthy and distinguished parents, was an elect child of grace; truly responding to her name (as St. Jerome writes), her childhood passed in spotless purity and lamblike innocence ( agnus = lamb). A hundred years after her death, St. Ambrose said: ‘Even at the present day, many Roman maidens cherish the example of St. Agnes, as though she were still dwelling and living among us, animating themselves thereby to a perpetual preservation of purity.’ She gained the double crown of virginity and martyrdom at the tender age of thirteen. As is related in the history of her life, she was, ‘though a child in years, yet mature in mind; a girl in stature, but a matron in spirit; beautiful in appearance and figure, but still more charming in soul by piety and modesty.’ When asked in marriage by a young man in the imperial family, she described in animated, glorious words her espousals with the heavenly Bridegroom: ‘Depart from me; for already hath another Lover possession of my heart, who far surpasseth thee in nobility, and who hath given me incomparably more beautiful presents than those which thou hast offered me. With unrivalled treasures He hath enriched me; His nobility is the highest, His power the greatest, His appearance the most beautiful, His love the sweetest. The angels serve Him; sun and moon admire His beauty; by the perfume of virtue that exhales from His person the dead are awakened; by His touch the sick are cured. He hath prepared for me His bridal-chamber, where music and song resound; for Him I preserve fidelity, to Him I give myself entirely and without reserve!’ She was taken to an abode of vice, but was protected by her guardian angel, who covered and shielded her with a garment of dazzling light. She was then thrown into a burning pile; but she made the Sign of the Cross over the flames and remained unharmed. Finally, she fell under the sword of the executioner (304 A.D.), and thus the tender victim hastened to the nuptials of the Divine Lamb.”