Steadfastness

St Agnes was martyred early (at age 12 according to Ambrose, 13 according to Augustine) and is today chiefly remembered for being one of the female saints mentioned by name in the Roman canon. She is the patron saint of virgins, rape victims, gardeners, etc (there is a lot in the etc. but we’ll leave that for the moment) and has a singularly beautiful Office, so it would be easy to drift off on liturgical and historical reminiscence, but I think that might be to miss the point. The saints are not given to us so that we can commemorate them with exquisite art (though we often do) nor are they meant to be the subject of historical enquiry (though they often are). Saints are given to us for our encouragement. What encouragement can we derive from this young Roman girl martyred more than 1700 years ago?

For a start, she is a wonderful example of holiness in the young; and not the namby-pamby kind of ‘holiness’ which is in the eye of the sentimental beholder alone, but the real thing — gutsy, determined, tough-minded. Agnes stood up to her elders for what she believed and paid the price. Moreover, she stood up for something that many today find laughable or even an embarrassment: the freedom to choose whether to marry or not, whether to have sex or not. In her case, she chose a state of permanent virginity as an expression of love for Christ. That was the original ‘woman’s right to choose’ which she defended at the cost of her life. It is worth remembering that whenever we hear her named in the Mass, whenever we hear of someone being forced into an arranged marriage or raped. Let us ask her prayers for all vulnerable girls and women today.

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3 thoughts on “Steadfastness”

  1. Thank you Sister. Agnes is a powerful reminder of what can be so wrong in our society today. Particularly the sexualization of the younger generation.

    The media and entertainment and advertising industry bear much of the blame, but so do we as parents. I’m not one for bringing up the restrictive, standards of my upbringing, where sex education was a dirty word and where young people were completely ignorant about sex.

    What we need to be doing from early on, is to educate lovingly about sexual matters, but emphasize the link with love, respect, integrity and dignity and responsibility. Most of all, we need to curb the influence of external sources, making them take responsibility for their actions, helping them to understand that their influence is basically evil and robbing children of their childhood.

    Here is where I can see Christians having a major influence on governments, urging them to take the necessary action to restore some balance to society. But I fear it might just be to late. The mantra of individual freedom and rights, overtakes the greater good. Prayers is my resort, but if a Christian political party came forward with such policies, perhaps they might receive more support from responsible citizens, not just Christians.

  2. It is worth remembering that whenever we hear her named in the Mass, whenever we hear of someone being forced into an arranged marriage or raped. Let us ask her prayers for all vulnerable girls and women today.

    Yes, yes, and yes!
    Thank you!

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