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TEENAGE HEROINE FOR OUR TIMES

Father Francis's picture
Saint Agnes

Agnes lived and died in Rome around the beginning of the fourth century. She was just one of the many Christians who suffered under the terrible persecution of the Emperor Diocletian but Agnes was only 13 years old.

Her family was wealthy and Agnes is said to have been very beautiful, so she attracted the attention of many of the young Roman noblemen. But she was a very devout girl who had decided to consecrate herself to God, so she sent all her suitors away disappointed. Their desire quickly turned to anger and revenge, and Agnes was denounced to the governor.

A trial followed at which she was accused of being a Christian. She gladly admitted her faith and repeated her vow of chastity. Her judges at first tried persuading her to give up her faith. When she refused, they used threats and finally violence. Agnes was told to offer incense to the pagan gods, but she would only make the sign of the Cross. She was then confronted with a terrifying array of torturous instruments, but she faced them calmly and cheerfully, saying that Jesus would help her to bear whatever was done to her. The Roman governor baffled at Agnes's stubbornness had her put to death.

St. Agnes has been declared the special patroness of girls. What does she mean to present day teenagers? Perhaps her life seems very remote and irrelevant to a sophisticated 13 year old girl of our time. But there are certain similarities between the pagan world she knew and our post-Christian society. Like those Roman citizens, there are many people in our own age who find it astonishing that a young girl would choose to be a practicing Christian. Nowadays, no one would threaten or torture her to turn away from her faith, but other weapons are just as effective – ridicule, peer group pressure and the values promoted by so many teenage magazines.

Many parents are anxious about their teenage daughters wondering if they will practice their faith. We know nothing about St. Agnes’ parents, but their daughter’s steadfast faith is evidence of the wonderful teaching and example they must have given her during her childhood. When Agnes was asked to deny her faith and do something she knew to be wrong, she simply made the sign of the Cross giving us a lesson for when we are faced with danger and evil - we can call on the strength of the Blessed Trinity.

St. Agnes, we ask you to look after all our teenage girls and make them realise the importance of having a close relationship with the Lord Jesus.