Today's liturgy features a memorial of St. Agnes (c. 304), who, like St. Cecilia, is to be numbered among the most famous martyrs of Rome. When the Diocletian persecution was at its height, and when priests as well as laymen were apostatizing from the faith, Agnes, a girl of twelve, freely chose to die for Christ.
When she was commanded to offer incense to false gods, she raised her hand to Christ and made the Sign of the Cross. When the heathens threatened to bind her hand and foot, she herself hastened to the place of torture as a bride to her wedding feast. Pain had no terror for her—although the fetters slipped from her small hands while even the pagan bystanders were moved to tears.
When the son of the Roman prefect offered to marry her, she replied: "The one to whom I am betrothed is Christ Whom the angels serve." When the executioner, who was to behead her, hesitated, she encouraged him with the words: "Strike, without fear, for the bride does her Spouse an injury if she makes Him wait". The name of "Agnes" means "lamb-life," and hence the lamb is the symbol of the modesty and innocence of the virgin-martyr.
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Blessing of Lambs on the Feast of St. Agnes
"Agnes" means "lamb" and on the feast of St. Agnes each year the Holy Father blesses two lambs reared by Trappist monks [cf. photo] and afterwards handed over to sisters for shearing and for use in shaping into the pallium.
On the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29) in the Vatican Basilica these pallia will be imposed on metropolitan archbishops named since the previous year's celebration (such as Archbishop Albert LeGatt named to Saint-Boniface, MB last July or the new Archbishop of Brussels Mgr André-Mutien Léonard named on Monday).