Most of us who are striving for chastity in our modern society know that it’s no easy task to remain pure these days.
All around us, the influences of the world and of the devil work each day to try and diminish the importance of chastity, or to make us think it’s impossible for us to stay chaste.
Anyone who has ever struggled in some measure to remain chaste knows that we can’t do it alone.
We need grace from God, and sometimes even help from others.
Saint Agnes, official patron saint of chastity, can be a great assistance for us in this battle for purity.
Next time you’re feeling the difficulty of this battle in your own life, try turning to St. Agnes for some heavenly intercession and inspiration.
Her holy early life
A lot of the material we know about Agnes’ early life is legendary and not known for certain to be authentic. But tradition does tell us some details about her year early years that are likely true.
It is said that she was born in the year 291. Her parents were members of the nobility of Rome. They were also some of the first early Christians.
Agnes was a beautiful young woman. Her beauty, combined with her parents’ wealth, caused her to be highly sought after as a wife.
She was deeply devoted to God, even though she was still very young. Agnes abhorred sin more than death, and she made a vow to remain a virgin.
Many young men of high rank attempted to win her hand, but she told each of them that Jesus was her only spouse.
Agnes’ persistence in the quest for holiness
Legend has it that some of the young men who sought Agnes’ hand became quite angry when she refused them.
In one instance, she angered the governor’s son Procop with her refusal. He tried to make Agnes change her mind by giving her expensive gifts and promising her many things, but she remained firm in her commitment to virginity.
She told Procop, “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!”
Irate at her words of refusal, Procop publicly accused her of being a Christian. He brought Agnes to the governor, his father.
The governor didn’t immediately sentence the beautiful young girl to death for her Christianity. Instead, he first attempted to make her deny her Faith.
He told her that he would give her wonderful things if she would renounce her faith.
When the governor tried to make her change her mind by putting her in chains, it did not sway her. Instead, she became joyful at the opportunity to suffer for Christ.
Agnes was then sentenced to be drug through the streets naked, on the way to a brothel.
One account says that, after Agnes prayed, hair grew to cover her naked body.
Tradition says an angel protected Agnes in the brothel, and that every man who attempted to rape her was struck blind.
A holy death for Christ
When Agnes was condemned to death at just twelve or thirteen years old, even the pagans were upset because she was so young and beautiful.
But Agnes was not upset that she was about to die. Instead, she was happy to suffer and die for Christ.
Those around her begged her to renounce Jesus in order to save herself, but Agnes paid them no attention.
To these people she said, “I would offend my Spouse, if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!”
Some accounts say that Agnes was tied to a stake to be burned, but that the flames burned only far away from her and she would not catch fire. Other accounts say that the wood beneath her would not catch fire at all.
When it was clear that she could not be killed by fire, an officer beheaded her with his sword.
It is believed that Agnes died in the year 304.
Prayer to Agnes for chastity
Holy martyr Agnes, you chose to die rather than to give up your faith. You refused to renounce Him whom you loved so dearly. You chose death over offending your spouse, and you went willingly to meet your divine lover.
You are revered for your commitment to your vow of virginity, and you are held as the patron saint of chastity. Pray for us who strive daily for purity against the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil.
Pray that we may never weary of seeking to live out chastity in our lives. Pray that we may one day, like you, be welcomed into the arms of our heavenly bridegroom.
Saint Agnes, patron saint of chastity, pray for us!