St Agnes has ever been held in highest honour as a virgin and martyr in the early Church, and her name even finds mention in the Roman Canon of the Mass. But not very much is known about her life.
Apparently Agnes came from an influential Roman family, believing Christians, and therefore open to persecution in the hostile society of the 3rd century. Like several other young women for whom being consecrated to Christ was an ideal, she refused marriage. This led to her being exposed in a brothel, where all who saw her were awestruck. A young man who attempted to violate her was struck blind, and only recovered his sight through the saint’s prayers. Legends perhaps, but they express the popular belief that the Lord takes care of his own.
This young girl was martyred at the age of 12, and buried in her parents’ country villa outside Rome, a place which now has a beautiful church in her name.
Today Agnes is the patron of purity. Her name is related to ‘agnus’, lamb; and therefore the offering of young life for an spiritual ideal. As such, saints like Agnes are an inspiration to us all.
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