Today is the feast of St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr. I have a special devotion to little Agnes. Both my mom and my eldest daughter are named for her. I visit her relics whenever I’m in Rome. One of Agnes’s two Roman churches is the subject of a beautiful recent book, The Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery, and Meaning in an Ordinary Church. Agnes is remarkable among the early martyrs because of the abundance of testimony that appears so soon after her death. Ambrose, Augustine, and Prudentius all tell the story of her life. Constantine built a basilica as her memorial. What great witnesses.
I agree, for sentimental reasons, with the historians who speculate that it was the public torture of this lovely, innocent little girl, from a noble family, that turned the tide of public opinion in favor of the Christians. In that act, pagan Rome saw itself clearly and didn’t like what it saw. It was the tipping point. (There’s no way to prove such an hypothesis, of course. But if you’d like to step outside…)
Jeff Ziegler gives us these links:
— St. Agnes (d. c. 303), virgin and martyr.
— St. Ambrose on St. Agnes (De Virginibus: see chap. 2).
— Today’s readings where the memorial is kept with special devotion, 1 Cor. 1:26-31 and Mt. 13:44-46.
— Vicente Marsip, “Martyrdom of St. Agnes” (1540s).
UPDATE: Maureen, too, has posted good stuff.