St. Agnes (January 21)
Toward the end of his reign, Emperor Diocletian, fearful that Christians were causing the gradual decline of the Roman Empire, began a general persecution of the Church in the year 303. For about two years, the Christians of Rome lived in fear. Agnes, born into a wealthy family, was a beautiful young girl of thirteen. She was brought before the Roman governor by some young men who were incensed by her refusal to marry them. They thought the ordeal of a trial would shake her belief in Jesus Christ and bring her over to their sensual style of life. At first, the judge tried to coax her to renounce her faith by promises of a luxurious and comfortable life. When Agnes remained firm, he tried to terrify her by showing the instrument of torture she would experience if she did not yield. Agnes was then sent to a house of prostitution. Upon her release, she angered the governor when she bravely defended her vow to give herself only to Christ. As a result, he had her executed by the sword. Christians honored this young, defenseless girl for her invincible faith and celebrated her memory by building a great shrine in Rome over the place where she was buried on the Via Nomentana.