The blessing of lambs on St. Agnes’ feast day

Fr. Don shared this morning in his homily that today, the Holy Father will bless two lambs in Rome. The lamb, as a symbol of purity, is one of the symbols of St. Agnes, whose feast we celebrate today. The two crowned lambs he will bless will be brought to the Church of St. Agnes in two baskets, decorated in red (martyrdom) and white (purity), by Trappists of the Tre Fontane Monastery. The lambs are blessed and then taken to the Convent of St. Cecilia, where the Sisters care for them and use their wool to weave the palliums worn by the Pope and his Archbishops (which, as Fr. Don noted, look like dog ears!). The palliums are conferred on new archbishops — those appointed as archbishops during the preceding year — on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul on 29 June. Because of St. Agnes’s association with lambs, a lamb-shaped cake would be nice today.

St. Agnes stood for purity. The governor of her land had a son, legend has it, and he wanted him to marry Agnes, a young and beautiful girl on the cusp of womanhood. Like all the other requests from various suitors, she refused. She told him she was the bride of Christ, that she was spoken for already.

The governor was royally mad, so he had Agnes paraded through the street naked, and had her taken to a brothel. One of her first visitors there was the son of the governor. She again refused. Her courage was admired: many men who saw her courage were afraid to touch her, and one, the governor’s son, was even struck blind. Fortunately for him though, Agnes prayed for him and he regained his sight.

The governor had he killed. St. Ambrose wrote that she went to her execution more cheerfully than most women go to their weddings.

St. Ambrose wrote that Agnes stood “undaunted by heavy, clanking chains….She is too young to know death, but is ready to face it.”

But the life of St. Agnes and the Gospel today involving the man with the withered hand, remind us that God uses the weak to accomplish his will in this world. Good thing, because most of us are awfully weak. Yet, when we are strengthened enough to do some bit of good, there are always those who will come after us, like the pharisees, from their crooked notions of what’s right and wrong. Fr. Don referenced as an example some “crackpots” who always reply negatively to letters to the editor on the HTO website submitted by those who seek to share their beliefs. (We all know who he’s talking about!)

St. Agnes’ remains are buried in Via Nomentana in Rome.

An excellent prayer from the hymn by Adam of St. Victor:

Let us gain courage for our own battle by honoring the martyrdom of the glorious virgin Agnes. St. Agnes, vessel of honor, flower of unfading fragrance, beloved of the choirs of Angels, you are an example to the worth of virtue and chastity. O you who wear a Martyr’s palm and a virgin’s wreath, pray for us that, though unworthy of a special crown, we may have our names written in the list of Saints.