Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff

St. Agnes

Jan. 21; A.D. 304

One of the most honoured names among the Saints of the Church is that of St. Agnes. She was born at Rome about the year A.D. 290. Her parents were rich and of high rank; they were Christians, and while still a little child Agnes learnt to love and serve JESUS. She grew up a beautiful, good and modest maiden, and before she was quite fourteen years of age the son of the Governor of Rome, who thought he had never seen any one so good and so lovely as she was, asked her parents to give him their daughter to be his wife.

But Agnes had made up her mind never to marry; she wished to devote herself and her whole life to GOD, to have no thought of care or love but for the Saviour and His poor. She knew that if she married she would be obliged to lead a gay and worldly life, to have her mind full of earthly cares.

Besides, the son of the Roman governor was not a Christian, and whatever happened Agnes could never give up her faith. So very firmly, though gently, she said, No; she could not wed the young man, "my heart is bound to One by Whose Love alone I live," she said.

When the governor knew that she was so firm a Christian he was very angry. Insults were heaped upon the poor girl. "Surely in the end she will give way," thought the pagans. And they set bad people about her, who tried first to persuade, then to force her to marry their friend, the son of the governor. But when they were rough and rude to the maiden, a shield of heavenly light seemed to wrap itself around her, and her face would shine with such noble purity that the bad men slunk away ashamed.

All this only made the 'son of the prefect wish more than ever that she should become his wife, and he tried to carry her off and wed her by force. But suddenly he was seized with a dreadful fit, and fell down before the young girl stiff and cold as if he were dead

His father was mad with grief and anger. He cried out that Agnes was a witch, that she had killed his son. The poor girl was full of sorrow. She tried to make the father see that she could not have had anything to do with what they thought was the death of his son.; he would not listen to her.

Then she knelt down and prayed earnestly to GOD for the life of the young man. In a little while he began to move, and soon rose and stood alive and well before her. The father thought Agnes had worked a miracle. Overjoyed, he at once took her part against the angry crowd that stood around, ready to put her to death. He tried his best to save her, but it was too late. The pagans were in a fury against the Christian maiden. A pile of fagots had been raised; it was set light to, and the maiden seized and placed upon it.

There was a strong wind blowing. The flames were not steady; instead of touching St. Agnes, they spread outwards and burnt to death those who stood near, and who had set the pile on fire. It seemed as if a miracle had been worked to save her life. But the fury of the pagan mob was still so great that not even now would they spare the Christian girl. They bade the headsman mount the pyre. The maiden knelt down, gathered her white robe round her, and bent her head to the blow of the axe.

A chapel stands over the spot where she was martyred, just outside the walls of the city of Rome, and there every year a pair of lambs are taken to be blessed. Then their wool is cut and made into the cloak or pallium that is worn by the Archbishop.

In old pictures St. Agnes is always shown with a spotless white lamb by her side; and in the Christian Church she has been honoured from the time of her death as a type of purity.