Saturday, January 21, 2012

Feast of St. Agnes 2012

Here are some beautiful thoughts from our Holy Father on perhaps the most notable consecrated-virgin saint, St. Agnes of Rome. Interestingly, they were made in the context of an address to diocesan seminarians—read the whole address here.

Emphases and comments are mine.


St. Agnes is one of the famous Roman maidens, who illustrated the genuine beauty of faith in Christ and friendship with Him. Her dual status as Virgin and Martyr reflect the fullness of holiness’s dimensions. This is a fullness of holiness that is requested also of you by your Christian faith and the special priestly vocation with which the Lord has called you and binds you to Him. Martyrdom, for St. Agnes, meant the generous and free acceptance of giving her own young life, in its entirety and without reservation, that the Gospel might be preached as the truth and beauty that illuminate life. (I absolutely love this connection between St. Agnes and the preaching of the Gospel! Even though the point of reference here is to her martyrdom, I also think that it has a connection to her virginity as well. I think it would be fruitful for us consecrated virgins to mediate on the intimate relationship between consecrated virginity—i.e., the offering of oneself whole and entire—and the Church constant commitment to preserving the truth of the teachings of the faith.)

In the martyrdom of Agnes, received courageously in the stadium of Domitian, there shines forever the beauty of belonging to Christ without hesitation, relying on Him. Even today, for anyone who steps into Piazza Navona, (I am very blessed to be able to walk through the Piazza Navona every day on my way to school! I always think of St. Agnes while I am there. It’s a great support to my vocation to be able to be so often in the place where she was martyred.) the effigy of the saint from atop the gable of the church of St. Agnes in Agony, reminds him that our city is based also on the friendship with Christ and witness to his Gospel, of many of its sons and daughters. Their generous surrender to Him and to the good of their brothers is a primary component of the spiritual physiognomy of Rome.

In martyrdom, Agnes also seals the other crucial element of her life, virginity for Christ and for the Church. The total gift of martyrdom is prepared, in fact, by the conscious, free and mature choice of virginity, a witness to the will to belong totally to Christ. If martyrdom is a final heroic act, virginity is the result of a long friendship with Jesus that has matured in the constant hearing of His Word, in the dialogue of prayer, in the Eucharistic encounter. Agnes, still young, learned that being a disciple of the Lord means loving Him by putting all her life at His disposal. (According to St. Ambrose, St. Agnes was twelve years old when she was martyred. And so in my opinion, the life and witness of St. Agnes is itself the most eloquent argument for seeing consecrated virginity as a vocation especially suitable for younger women.) This dual qualification—Virgin and Martyr—calls to mind in our reflection that a credible witness of the faith must be a person who lives for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, transforming their lives according to the higher needs of Grace.