A Short Biography of Our Patroness: Saint Agnes
St. Agnes of Rome was born in 291 AD and raised in a Christian family. Agnes was very beautiful and belonged to a wealthy family. Her hand in marriage was highly sought after, and she had many high ranking men chasing after her. However, Agnes made a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was great and she hated sin even more than death! – Whenever a man wished to marry Agnes, she would always say, “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse.”
According to legend, the young men she turned away became so angry and insulted by her devotion to God and purity that they began to submit her name to authorities as a Christian follower. In great anger, [suitor] Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy.
Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. “I would offend my Spouse,” she said, “if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!” Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.
Other accounts of Agnes’ life hold the Prefect Sempronius responsible for her martyrdom. It is said he condemned the young girl to be dragged through the streets naked. Some versions of the legend state that Agnes’ hair grew instantly to cover her entire body and all the men who attempted to rape the beautiful virgin were immediately struck blind.
The stories go on to explain that another man presided over Agnes’ trial after Sempronius excused himself. The new man sentenced Agnes to death. At first, Agnes was tied to a stake, but either the wood would not burn or the flames parted away from her. This prompted an officer to draw his sword and behead the girl. It is believed that her blood, which poured out to the stadium, was soaked up with cloths by Christians.
She died a virgin-martyr at the age of 12 or 13 on 21 January 304.
Other Interesting Facts about Saint Agnes
- Watch a short video about her life here at Catholic.org
- The Latin word for “lamb”, agnus, which sounds like her name. The name “Agnes” is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective hagnē (ἁγνή) meaning “chaste, pure, sacred”.
- St. Agnes and her intercession impacted the life of St. Lucy. St. Lucy (Lucia) (283–304 A.D.) was born to a wealthy Christian family of Sicily. Her father died when she was a baby and she then grew up in piety. As a young child, she secretly consecrated her virginity to Christ. Lucy’s mother was struck with a long and serious illness and Lucy brought her to pray at the tomb of St. Agnes in Rome. As a result, Lucy’s mother was miraculously cured of her illness.
- St. Jerome wrote this of St. Agnes:
“All nations, especially their Christian communities, praise in word and writing the life of St. Agnes. She triumphed over her tender age as well as over the merciless tyrant. To the crown of spotless innocence she added the glory of martyrdom.”
Novena Prayer to Saint Agnes
Dearest St. Agnes, our courageous patron, although you were only a child, you believed that Jesus was always with you; help us to remember that He is also with us, and to remain true to His presence.
You refused to give up your faith; help us to be proud of our faith, to love it, to be strong in it, and to give witness to it daily.
Patron saint of children, watch over the children of this parish and those of the whole world; keep them safe from harm, be with them in their hour of need, and pray for them always.
St. Agnes, Pray for Us. Amen.