On St. Agnes’ Feastday, the Blessing of the Lambs

Sweet St. Agnes had taken a vow of chastity—so she refused when suitors wanted her hand in marriage.  Even the governor’s son Procop could not win her heart, since she was pledged to God.  Angered, Procop accused her of being a Christian—which was illegal—and when she would not renounce her faith, she was condemned to death.  She was only 13 years old when she was beheaded for her faith.

On January 21, the Feast of St.Agnes, Pope Benedict continued a 132-year-old tradition—the Blessing of the Lambs.

In a ceremony guaranteed to evoke a smile, each year on the feast two young lambs are brought to the Holy Father to be blessed. Covered in blankets, one white (to signify St. Agnes’ purity) and one red (representing her martyrdom), each lamb wears a crown of red and white flowers. The photo (from CNS/L’Osservatore Romano) shows the lamb that was blessed five years ago.



We’ll hear of the lambs again on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. On that day, we commemorate the martyrdom of these two great pillars of the Church. The Pope, in a special ceremony, places a “pallium” over the shoulders of the newest archbishops from around the world. And that’s where those little lambs come in: The pallium, a circular stole, is woven from the lambs’ fleece.  It reminds us how the archbishop, like the Good Shepherd, cares for his flock.



An interesting thing about the lambs:  Whereas many animals fight when being led to the slaughter, lambs go quietly, willingly—just like Jesus, the Lamb of God, who willingly sacrificed his life for you and me.

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