Memorial of St. Agnes Virgin and Martyr
The Church celebrates today in a special way the memory of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. St. Agnes died in Rome during the great persecutions of the Christians led by Emperor Diocletian in 304. Her strength and resolve in maintaining her Christian witness even at death and at the young age of 13 earned her the respect of the early Christian community. She has the honor of being one of the 7 women in the “Roman Canon,” the only Eucharistic prayer used until the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.
Tertullian in the second century identified the blood of martyrs as the seed of the Church, meaning that it was through their witness—even at death—that would inspire others to value and join the church. The word itself comes from the Greek term for witness and does not necessarily imply death. However, by the 3rd century, a martyr became synonymous for someone who died for his or her beliefs.
Martyrdom is not that distant of a phenomenon. The 20th century, that which we claim as modern” far exceeded the number of deaths caused by witness to the Christian faith compared to the persecutions of the early church and the so called “religious” wars of the 17th century that the number is staggering.
Although we may not be called to give our lives, we may be called to give witness to our faith, especially at times when, not when the lions are in the coliseum, but rather when it may cause us embarrassment at a cocktail party.