Today the Church remembers St. Agnes. It is also the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.
The Rev. Dr. Edward Ambrose writes this about St. Agnes:
Around the year 304, in front of the Roman prefect, stood thirteen-year-old Agnes, pale but calm; Agnes was accused of being a Christian. Agnes' parents were pagan, but it was customary for rich parents to entrust the education of daughters to nurse-slaves. Apparently, the nurse-slaves who were educating Agnes were Christian.
“I am a Christian,” Agnes testifies to the prefect, “I have vowed my fidelity and my virginity to Christ.” With rage, the prefect explains: “Your blasphemy against the gods deserves death. But I will give you another chance. You choose: You can sacrifice to the goddess with the vestal virgins, or you will be dragged into the house of dishonor. Consider also the honor of your family.”
Counting on the help of God, she calmly answers: “Mr. Prefect, if you only knew who was my God, you would not dare speak this way. He will send an angel to protect me.” The prefect-judge then stands up: “May this young girl, Agnes, convinced of blasphemy and of sacrilege, be stripped of her clothing, and be exposed in the house of shame!”
As the guards unclothe Agnes, her hair starts to grow, coming down and covering her body like a veil, while they lead her away under the eyes of the crowd that had been set against her.
The prefect is overwhelmed — he willingly would have let Agnes go, if it was not for the protests of the people who demand the death of this witch, an enemy of the gods. (A scene similar to the one of Holy Thursday in front of Pilate's court.) He entrusts the case to his sub-prefect, who orders that Agnes be burnt alive on a stake, in the public square. But the flames do not touch her. She prays: “I bless You, Almighty God, that, by Your Divine Son, I escaped the threats of faithless men. And behold, now You free me from all harm and worry amidst the flames. But I cannot wait to go to You.”
Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, who choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Please pray for everyone on our Prayer List, and we especially remember all of those who are being ordained priests during this month, John, Katie, Pat, all of those victims of the attack in Pakistan, and for those who have no one to pray for them.
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Chester J. Makowski+
St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550