Who Was That Now?

I love the Mass. I am more of a Latin Mass attendee, specifically. What do I love about it? I love the ritual, the sights, the sounds, and the smells. I love all the grandeur that the Church incorporates into a High Mass because it makes me realize how awe-inspiring God truly is. If one were to sit and really think about the majesty of God, many things come into focus. Should you wear a football jersey to Mass? No, you should want to show God how much you love and respect Him by dressing well to be in His presence. Should you play on your phone, zone out during the readings, and be disappointed if the homily is not of the caliber of a motivational speaker’s talk? No, of course not. The Mass is so wonderful and beautiful because the entire arrangement of it is a prayer to God.

Every reading, every prayer, every bow, kneel, and genuflection is part of this wonderful opportunity to show resect and love for the Creator of the universe. In today’s society, however, there is variation and acceptance out of love for the common person. Based upon how large a parish is, the space in the building, and the type of people at the Mass, the priest may select which version of the Mass he would like to say/offer. There are three common versions and at many parishes the shortest version is said. Perhaps this is because of the size of the congregation, and families with smaller children do not generally have the energy to keep small kids quiet for longer. (At least, this is what my priest told me.) However, I like the longest version best.

Besides the grandeur and extended words in the descriptions, I like the extended prayers. In the prayer of consecration, the priest extends the prayer to include others by name who are with Our Blessed Mother in heaven. Specifically, I like that this list mentions martyrs. All saints are worthy of our admiration and prayers, but martyrs hold a special place in my heart. Not only to live a holy life but to give the ultimate sacrifice for Christ is the biggest act of love anyone could ever do. During this prayer the priest says a slew of names and I would like to shed some light on one of them, Agnes.

Born in the late third century, Agnes was a Christian at a very early age. While this was still illegal, she did not hide her love for Christ. When she turned of age (12 or 13) she was ordered to sacrifice to a pagan god and lose her virginity by rape. She would be led to a temple in Minerva where this was to take place. Upon coming to the altar, she made the sign of the cross. Refusing to worship the pagan god, she was threatened and tortured. Seeing this young girl in this state, many young men stepped forward offering to marry her to save her. Not knowing whether their offers were out of pity or lust she denied them all, indicating that to do so to save her own life would be an insult to Christ, who was her Heavenly Spouse. Desiring to keep her consecrated virginity intact she accepted death in order to see Christ, which is what she truly desired. Sources vary on how she was martyred (either beheaded, stabbed, or burned), but it is known that she was mentioned in one of the earliest Eucharistic prayers of which we have record.

Each year on her feast day, two lambs are blessed at her church in Rome. Their wool is then shorn and woven into palliums (bands of white) that the pope confers on archbishops to show their jurisdiction. Agnes is pictured in art holding a lamb, a symbol of Christ, purity, and perhaps the source of this tradition. Her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana, was also martyred two days later while on her way to pray at Anges’s grave by an angry mob of pagans after she professed her love for her sister and for Christ. Perhaps both girls being martyred so close together is the source for the symbolism of two lambs.

Her feast day is January 21st.

“All-powerful and ever-living God, You choose the weak in this world to confound the powerful. When we celebrate the memory of Saint Agnes, may we like her remain constant in our faith. Amen.”

(Prayer to St. Agnes)

Now if you get the opportunity to hear your priest offer the names of the other saints and martyrs in heaven with Our Blessed Mother who we hope to join, you may know the story of one of those faithful servants of Christ.

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