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Virgin and Martyr (entered heaven this day in 304)
My pitiless guards (may God forgive them) just slid a recent article from “The Campus Times” under my cubicle wall, laughing all the while. It very scientifically tabulates recent statistics concerning the moral behavior of college students in America. After coldly describing widespread suicide, drug use, alcohol abuse, promiscuity, cheating, and sexual aberrations (one example was of a young man who claimed to have rescued a homeless girl by letting her stay in his room all semester – it turns out she was a prostitute), they triumphantly conclude that our society has finally reached a truly enlightened state, “free from the puritanical fetters of our ancestors, who governed their behavior according to their schizophrenic super-egos, and not according to the natural impulses of their organism.” I suppose that my guards wanted to discourage me (they screen all my emails, you know, looking for evidence that I am a Vatican spy), but they failed. I am well aware of the morass of moral confusion infesting college culture, but that only spurs me on to pray more fervently for a generation of saints to spring up and reclaim true human and Christian values. I know that my prayers are being answered – after all, I have nephews like yourself.
I did, however, find it curiously providential that they forwarded me this article precisely today, on the feast of St Agnes. Few saints have been more inspiring for the Church through the ages. She was just a girl of 13, from a wealthy, aristocratic Roman family, and ravishingly beautiful (girls matured faster back then, especially in the Mediterranean cultures). All the young noblemen were vying for her hand in marriage, but she informed each and every one that she had already consecrated her heart and her virginity to a heavenly husband, one whom they could not see with their eyes of flesh. At first, they laughed at her, but when she persisted, they became angry. Knowing she was a Christian, they denounced her to the governor (though it was a capital punishment to be a Christian, since Christians wouldn’t sacrifice to the state gods, women didn’t usually suffer for their faith – only male Roman citizens were required to perform public worship on behalf of the state, and that’s how the Christians were usually discovered), hoping that interrogations and the prospect of torture would weaken her resolve. They were wrong. At first, she resisted the governor’s allurements and sweet cajoleries, reiterating that she could have no spouse but Jesus Christ. Then she resisted threats; then she stood firm when they lit fires and wheeled out various instruments of torture and execution for her inspection. Exasperated, the governor had her sent to a well-known house of prostitution and announced that the Roman youth were to have their way with her free of charge. But her countenance shone with such an otherworldly light that the scores of eager profligates dared not approach her. She explained to the governor that “You may stain your sword with my blood, but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ.” The entire city was in an uproar by this time, and the governor, perturbed by the courageous affronts of such a young girl, had her killed by a sword through the neck (some records say she was beheaded) – she went to her execution more joyfully than most go to their weddings.
So you can see why reading the article from “The Campus Times” actually induced a chuckle or two. Obviously, the authors didn’t interview everyone, for you and I know that there are yet many Agneses shining brightly in today’s college culture.
Your affectionate uncle, Eddy