Saint Agnes

c. 291-304

Saint Agnes, c. 291-304

January 21

When we pray Eucharistic Prayer I at Mass, we say the names of seven women from the early Church who are honored as Saints. Agnes is fifth in the list. Agnes was born around 291 to a Christian family in Rome. A high-ranking Roman official wanted her to marry his son, but Agnes didn’t want to marry a non-Christian. This made the official angry so he had her sentenced to death.

Before she was to be killed, she was dragged through the streets so that people would make fun of her. Finally, she was tied to a stake to be burned to death, but the wood wouldn’t catch on fire. One of the soldiers who were in charge of the execution then cut off her head. She was buried in the catacombs under Rome, but today her bones are in two churches named after her in Rome.

One interesting custom has developed around Saint Agnes. Each year on her feast day, January 21, two white lambs are brought to the Pope to be blessed. On Holy Thursday, the lambs are shorn and their wool is used to make the palliums that the Pope gives to all newly consecrated archbishops. A pallium is a narrow band of cloth worn over the shoulder, which looks like the letter “Y.” It is worn as a sign of the authority that comes down from the Apostles and is given by the Pope. 

Saint Agnes is the patron Saint of girls and engaged couples. She is often pictured holding a lamb in her arms.

Discuss: What makes Saint Agnes a good patron Saint for girls? 

Pray an Act of Love

Teach the young people, and pray together, the Act of Love.

Oh my God,
I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good and worthy of all love.
I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me,
and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.