St Agnes of Rome – January 21
c. 291 – c. 304
The 21st of January is the Feast of St. Agnes of Rome. One of the female martyrs recognized by the church, St. Agnes is the patron saint for girls, engaged couples, rape victims, chastity and a few others, including the Girl Scouts. Tradition holds that she was martyred on this day in the year 304 ad. at the age of twelve for refusing to marry the son of a Roman Prefect.
The name Agnes comes from the Greek hagne which means pure or chaste, but sounds like the Latin agnus which means lamb, as in agnus dei, or Lamb of God. This is probably why in iconography and religious art St. Agnes is often shown holding a lamb.
The death of any one at such an early age is always a blow to the senses. Agnes comes from a time lost to us in antiquity, maybe making it easy to shrug off her death as something that could only have happened in another era, another time when religions ruled and men were un-enlightened; and yet in our modern world, we have our Amber alerts, pictures on milk cartons and see all too often the abuse and destruction of the innocent.
The church in its recognition of St. Agnes demonstrates catholicity, the complete and universal nature of the church, in its acceptance of children and women; which was a progressive idea for the time. St. Agnes was not the first female saint to be recognized, but she may be the first saint that was a child, by our definition. She was, after all, old enough for marriage according to he culture she lived in.
It is my thought that we should remind ourselves of saints like Agnes. Remind ourselves of chastity, of innocence, of the resilient nature of children. Hammer into our lives and the lives of those around us a reminder of the words of Christ:
Luke 17:1 And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come. But woe to him through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.