St Agnes

Virgin and Martyr (entered heaven this day in 304)

Dear Virginia,

Your objection is understandable, but wrong.  Of course you are unworthy to give yourself to Christ as a consecrated lay woman.  You are a sinner, full of vanity and insecurity, with a trail of half-truths, dangerous flirtations, gossip, and arrogant temper tantrums following behind you.  That’s obvious.  But Christ knows that.  He knows it better than you do.  So if he’s inviting you to give your life to him and his Kingdom, he’s doing so even though you are unworthy.  He doesn’t want you because you are worthy; he wants you because he loves you.  He knows your imperfections, but his love shows him your perfections.  When he looks at you, he sees the glorious apostle he created you to be, the beautiful spouse he longs to make of you.  If he has chosen you, it would not be humility to resist, but pride.  If he has chosen you, what else matters?  Certainly, it will be hard to follow him; every marriage is full of difficulties, and this one will be too, but won’t this special predilection that he is showing you make up for it?  Won’t you rejoice to be able to suffer for the one who loves you, to show him how much you want to love him in return?  Today’s saint did.  Maybe you need to contemplate her example.

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 the point isn’t your worthiness or unworthiness; the point is Christ’s call.  He is yearning for you to say yes, and to stay faithful, but he won’t force you.  He’ll protect and guide and inspire you, but you’re the one who needs say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  I’ll be praying for you.

Your unworthy uncle,


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