19. The little sheep of God
In the first three centuries A.D. the Christian Church lived one of the most bloody and most heroic periods in its history. Masses of Christians wrote with their blood moving pages of love about the Crucified Jesus and His Gospel.
Terrible and horrible tortures were invented, to eradicate from the hearts of the faithful Christians the love they had for our Lord Jesus Christ.
The boldness, however, and the courage all the Christians showed when facing the tortures were remarkable! With unimaginable patience and bravery, children and adults, men and women, young and old, even young children suffered all these tortures with enthusiasm, for the sake of their Christian faith.
One such child, the young noble Agnes, was in her early teens, when she was asked to confess with courage the love she had for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Saint Agnes was born in the year 290 A.D. in Rome. The Emperor was then the great persecutor of Christians, Diocletian. Her parents had aristocratic origins and were very wealthy. From the time she was a toddler Agnes learnt about Christ and like a thirsty fawn which runs to the spring of gurgling water to drink, she was studying the holy Gospel and the great teaching of love, as interpreted through the Holy Book.
Her heart is fascinated by the great love of God the Father, who in order to save mankind from sin and to restore them to the heavenly Kingdom, from which they had fallen, sent Ηis only begotten Son to be sacrificed. She is impressed by the fact that, while Christ was God and co-creator with His Father, of all the wonderful world in which we live, He deigned to become man and be born of a pure young girl, Mariam.
She loved the mother of Christ so much, that she wanted to be like Her in every way. She also wanted to remain pure all her life and let little Jesus be all her happiness and joy. She was begging our Holy Virgin Mary to make her worthy to love Jesus, like She did, with all the power of her soul. God the Father, seeing this great longing that His little daughter had, flooded her childish soul with the grace of the Holy Spirit and made her heart beat sweetly for His only-begotten Son with infinite and divine love.
Agnes lived every hour and every moment just for the king of her life, her beloved Jesus. Every moment and every minute was for her an opportunity to show Him how much she loves Him and how she adores Him!
Jesus had made her heart His own throne and spoke secretly to her soul. He revealed to her the heavenly mysteries and the glory all those who loved Him have in heaven, who for His sake suffered every torture of His persecutors.
Agnes couldn't wait for the time when she could get, for the sake of her Beloved, the everlasting wreath of martyrdom. She longed to suffer, like all the other martyrs, for the unique love of her soul. In her mind she only had the image of Christ and in her heart only love and divine love for Him was burning. Her lips were constantly repeating a prayer: "My Jesus I love You."
Agnes was now a 13 year old girl. She was very beautiful and graceful. She looked more like an angel than a human.
She helped every unhappy person and with her alms relieved the suffering of the poor, the widowed women and orphaned children. She tried to do all these things discreetly as she didn't want to be praised. With her courteous way of life she led many to seek and know Christ and His holy Gospel.
One day the son of a local nobleman saw her as she walked in the street, and dazzled by her beauty fell madly in love with her. He tried many times in various ways to make her notice him and finally asked her to be his wife. Agnes, however, repeatedly refused his proposal because, as she told him, she was already married. He was surprised because he knew very well that Agnes had not yet married. Then she was forced to tell him that she was a Christian and was married to her heavenly bridegroom, Jesus.
Upon hearing this, the young man became very angry and told his pagan father. In vain his father tried to make her change her decision and to marry his son.
Young Agnes was adamant in her decision and did not want anything to pollute her body, for the sake of her heavenly Bridegroom. She wanted her whole existence, body and soul, to belong only to her well-Beloved Jesus.
Then the lord to bend her resistance, threatened her with various tortures since she admitted that she was a Christian. But when he saw that even threats could not do anything, he ordered them to arrest her and to throw her into a brothel, so she would no longer be pure. He knew that for a young Christian girl it would be the greatest torture.
Agnes' answer, however, to the Roman lord was courageous and admirable.
-Neither will I sacrifice to your gods, nor will I fear the brothel you want to throw me into. I believe that my heavenly Bridegroom will keep me pure and will not allow anything bad to happen to me.
The courage of the young Christian noble girl angered the pagan lord and to ridicule Agnes more, he ordered that before she was thrown into the brothel she would be stripped half-naked and then paraded around the city.
Then, after she was paraded half-naked through the main streets of Rome, the soldiers took her to a brothel, where anyone could do whatever he wanted to her. Many men came to dishonour her. None of them, however, could achieve what they wanted, because as soon as they approached her their lust was numbed. Many of them even temporarily lost their sight and couldn't see anything before them. This fact made a tremendous impression on those who learnt about it.
There was then a proud young man, who bet that he will dishonour her and nothing will stand in the way of his desire. With these feelings he then approached our Saint, to dishonour her.
Agnes took refuge in prayer and begged her beloved Jesus to redeem her again from her aspiring rapist.
The impudent young man did not even come close to her when heavenly lightning hit him and knocked him down dead.
This miracle was spread immediately throughout Rome, because the young Christian was not just any girl, but had noble origins. Many people came full of admiration to see the holy Agnes, the miraculous heroine of Christ! All pagans acknowledged the great strength that Christ gives to those who believe in Him.
When the Roman ruler, was informed of the mysterious death of that immoral young man, he ordered them to bring Agnes in front of him.
-Tell me, cunning girl, how did you kill this unfortunate young man? What sorcery did you use to take away his life?
-I used no magic to kill that immoral young man. Christians never engage in sorcery, because this is the work of Satan. But since you want to know the truth, I'll tell you. Maybe then you will be able to open the eyes of your soul and see how true the faith of Christians is. When you ordered them to dishonour me and brought me to this house where the demons of prostitution and immorality dominate, a radiant young man followed me. He sat near me and deadened the carnal desires of all who came to dishonour me. He is the one who killed the immoral young man.
-And who was this radiant young man who helped you?
-He was the guardian angel of my soul, whom my heavenly Bridegroom Jesus sent to guard me day and night!
-To prove to us that what you say is true, then beg your God to resurrect him.
Then our Saint knelt, raised her hands high to heaven and prayed sincerely to her beloved king, Christ. Then she turned to the dead young man and said:
-In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ let your soul return to your body, so that everyone will believe in the only true God.
Then they were all amazed when they saw the dead young man resurrected and walking as healthily as before. Everybody saw the miracle and many of the pagans believed and became Christians. Others, on the other hand, said it was new magic trick of the young Christian, so they asked the Roman ruler to kill her as a sorceress.
So the cruel and callous lord gave orders to behead her, and after lighting a big fire, her body was thrown in it to burn.
After the martyrdom of St. Agnes, her parents and relations took her holy relics and placed them in a large catacomb of Rome, which since then is called "the catacomb of St. Agnes."
After eight days Saint Agnes appeared in this catacomb, wearing royal robes and holding a snow-white lamb in her arms.It was 21st January of the year 304 A.D.