Meeting Agnes

I’ve had a stressful week with some pretty rotten things happening, and I was exhausted and preoccupied coming in to school this morning. Fridays we have our school Mass, and there was a crisis at school too this week and so I was feeling pretty frazzled.

So I was thinking about a homily for St Agnes. How do you relate a first century virgin and martyr to a group of suburban American high school kids in the twenty first century? Then I realized that the temptations and lust, greed and violence endured by twelve year old Agnes in first century Rome is no different than the lust and violence and drunken ness and rage of twenty first century America. Our middle school has plenty of potential Agnes’. Our High School kids are battling the rage, the violence, the greed, the lust and the atheistic hatred of the faith. Everything Roman Agnes faced our children face today. American society is in many ways, just as pagan and decadent and violent and full of despair as ancient Rome.

I was feeling pretty emotional about the problems of our students and their challenges. I tried to preach on Agnes and referenced the movie True Grit–in which a young girl shows great courage in the face of evil, and said that Agnes also had ‘true grit’, that we were all in a battle, and we should look to the children as our models, for they keep the faith. This is after all what a virgin martyr is–a child who has kept faith, kept purity, kept trust, kept beauty, kept love, kept truth–even at the cost of her life.

The homily was over, the prayers were ended and it came time for the offertory procession. Who should be in the offertory process (by God’s great goodness) but one of the sweetest sixth graders in the school. A child named Agnes. When she brought forward the gifts and handed me the water and wine which would become the body and blood of Christ she gave me the most beautiful smile, and my hard heart melted. My spirit lifted and I swear that this twelve year old Agnes in Greenville South Carolina was also first centry Agnes come to smile on me.

How can I express the unity I felt as I went to the altar? A mystical unity with yet another member of the Body of Christ. She was my sister, my daughter, my child. She kept the faith I had lost, and offered it back to me as a gift, and I understood what the church means when she says that a saint is ‘raised to the altar’. Somehow it is all true, more true than I can put into words that through the sacrifice of the Mass we were one today with Agnes; who is one with Christ for Agnes (a twelve year old girl–here in the Agnes I saw today and there in heaven in the Agnes of two thousand years ago) both are radiant reflections–instant icons (in the form and face of a little girl)  not of Agnes, but Agnus…

… so in that child: Ecce Agnus Dei–Behold the Lamb of God.

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  • Babs

    Beautiful, and insightful…

  • Fr. Josh Miller

    Simply wonderful to read. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • shadowlands

    Father! It's shadowlands, so you know you're gonna get a sermon. I apolagizzze in advance.He who calls you will carry you! But don't expect an easy ride. I say/pray the rosary for you, on a regular basis. You reckon old nick hasn't got his agents working?Remember your post, last week, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, we war against the powers of darkness. But take courage . Read Collossians, right now! Four pages, it will only take you a few minutes but it will get your faith re-grounded!Ros, shadowlands, bossy blogger!

  • Richard Ballard

    A splendid reflection! (and much needed by many of us of late)

  • kkollwitz

    The Ghent Altarpiece by the well-catechized Van Eyck. An entire lecture's worth of Catholicism in one work of art.The Northern Renaissance strikes again.

  • Jamie


  • laurazim

    Father, I'm sorry to hear about your cruddy week. Know of many prayers for you.I loved that story about little Agnes. What a joy, what a blessing to see the heart of a saint in a sweet child!! Isn't it grand how He comes to us so beautifully and so unexpectedly when we most need Him?+JMJ+

  • Barb Bathon

    Thank you for the beautiful reflection! I know this grace has been given to me as a member of the laity at the perfect times of need; I cannot imagine the awe it must be when a priest is given this grace at mass. Thank the Lord for Agnes.

  • Cathy

    Lovely, lovely post. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Anthony Brett Dawe

    it is good you keep blogging for all of us…even such short recountings are very helpful…thank you for all your hard work…for God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind…we have to help the young people… who knows decadence and rage and lust get old and people turn to God for real excitement… but not without the 'unblind' to show them a way out…good on y'all

  • Sheep 1

    What a beautiful post which brought me to tears.Thank God for the children.Thank God for the small miracles he blesses us with when we most need them. Will keep you in prayer in a special way.Kay

  • Jenny

    I was given the gift of tears with this post — I bet you were given the same gift during that holy Mass, Father.