Congratulations to Simi, one of the delightful Keralans who enrich our church community, on the birth of a baby girl, Agnes. I know the whole parish joins me in wishing mum, dad and daughter well in these first days and weeks of bonding and learning all about each other. A first child is a truly momentous thing…I often liken it to a wrecking ball that shatters your entire way of living; that something deeper, richer and more beautiful can then be constructed within the family home.
And what a namesake too. According to tradition, Saint Agnes (b. 291) was a member of the Roman nobility raised in an early Catholic family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of 13 during the reign of Diocletian on 21 January 304.
Agnes was a beautiful girl of a wealthy family and therefore had many suitors. Legend holds that certain young rich men, enraged by her decision to consecrate her life to religious purity and remain virginal, sold her out to the authorities as a follower of Christianity. There are lots of dramatic tales regarding the nature of her subsequent martyrdom but suffice to say this little girl laid down her life for God.
Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome. There miracles began to occur to those who prayed at her tomb, including the daughter of the Emperor Constantine. St. Ambrose gave account of her life and commended her virtue. She is commemorated in the Depositio Martyrum of Filocalus (354) and mentioned in the earliest Roman Sacramentaries. Agnes’s bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of Sant’ Agnese fouri le mura in Rome, built over the catacomb that once housed her tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone in Rome’s famous Piazza Navona.