St. Agnes – Joyful Bride of Christ
Feast Day: January 21
St. Agnes is the patron saint of young girls, rape victims, virgins, engaged couples, and chastity. Although she did not live long on earth, she is one of the most well-known and famous martyrs in Rome. Her life is inspiring to those who seek purity, or who wish to feel clean again after being raped. She loved the Lord with all her heart and hated sin with every fiber of her being.
St. Agnes was beautiful and wealthy. She often had to turn down men of high rank who sought after her, one being Symphronius, the Governor’s son. When Agnes was only 12 he tried to win her over with ornaments and jewels but she refused him saying, “I am already the spouse of a Lover much more noble and powerful than you.” Of course, this answer enraged Symphronius and he sought his revenge against her. He knew she was a Christian and decided to report it to his father. The Governor ordered her to be arrested. His plan was to persuade her to marry his son with threats. After her arrest, he asked her if it was true that she was committing the crime of being a Christian. She happily told him she was, and that she vowed her fidelity and virginity to Christ. The judge said that he was trying to go easy on her because of her age but she quickly told him she did not want compassion because of her youth. The Governor ordered her to go to the temple of Vestra and offer a sacrifice to this goddess and to vow her virginity to her and not Christ. She refused to make any vows to spiritless idols or rocks. The Governor then had her stripped of her clothing and sent to the house of shame (a brothel). It is said that when she was stripped of her clothes, her hair grew to cover her body like a veil. When she was left at the house of shame she found an angel there waiting for her. The angel blinded anyone who tried to touch her. It is also said that Symphronius came to the house of shame to have his way with her and the angel struck him with lightening. Symphronius died that instant, but when his father saw what had happened he asked Agnes to bring him back to life. Agnes prayed for God’s grace over the Governors son. Symphronius awakened and ran out of the house of shame proclaiming that the God of Christians is the one and only God.
The Governor, believing Agnes may be a witch, handed the case over to another judge. The judge ordered for her to be burned at the stake. It is believed that while encircled with flames she prayed this prayer, “I beseech You, Father almighty, most worthy of awe and adoration. Through Your most holy Son I escaped the threats of the impious tyrant and passed through Satan’s filth with feet unsullied. Behold, I now come to You, whom I have always desired.” Giving thanks she prayed, “O You, the almighty One, who must be adored, worshipped, feared – I praise You because through Your only begotten Son I have escaped the threats of wicked men and have walked through the filth of sin with feet unsullied. I extol You with my lips and I desire You with all my heart and strength.” The flames eventually died out and she was not touched by a single flame. But she now longed for death, wanting to be united in Christ. She yearned to die, and hoped it would come soon for she could already see herself in heaven. She did not have to wait long. The judge ordered her beheaded and she was so very happy, like a bride on her wedding day. She willingly gave her head to the executioner’s sword.
St. Agnes was wise beyond her years. She knew as a child that she would only love God as her husband. Her courage, heroism, and faith through the house of shame, the fire, and her beheading are inspirational and influential for all Christians of faith. Her life made an impression on the world’s youth that holiness is not based on how long you live, or how many years of service you put in. Holiness is offered by God to all who will receive it.