Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Catholic Church's Alternative to "Pop Tarts"

CAUTION: Contains some adult language

No, I am not refering to the Kellogg's brand breakfast pastry. I am refering to those female singers/performers of the last few years who dress & act like a putana (whore0 or a fica pronta (ready to hop in bed at the drop of a hat, ie a ready c***) that modelled themselves after the queen of that genre, Madonna.

Over the last decade or so our culture has held them up as role models. The effect of that can be seen in quite a few ways, esp with how 'tween girls are dressing & acting these days. Our society promotes them, groups like Planned Parenthood mock any attempts to teach our children a chaste life style found in abstinance based sex ed in opposition to that extolled by these pop tarts. In fact they promote sex ed that teaches our children that chastity & abstinance are impossible.
However that is not true. & the saint that the Catholic Church holds up for us to honor today is proof of that. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes of Rome. While there are not a large number of details known about her, what we do know is enough for us to be able to extol her as a valid role model for the pre-teen & early teen girls of today.
St. Agnes lived at the end of the 3rd Century or start of the 4th Century AD in Rome. The most common date for her birth is 291 AD. Out of love for Jesus, she made a vow at a very young age to remain a virgin her entire life. As she neared the age of 12 or 13 (about 304 AD) she grew to be a very beautiful young woman. The result was that many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse." Among those who saw her beauty was the Prefect Sempronius who wanted Agnes to marry his son Procop. Procop tried to woo her with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, "I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!" In his anger Procop denounced her as a Christian to his father.
Sempronius tried to bribe her to renounce her faith. She continued to refuse. She was chained & led to the altar of a pagan god & told to offer sacrifice. She refused. Next he had her stripped nacked & sent to a brothel. The people refused to look at her. Depending on the version either a young man who looked on her was struck blind, or those that attempted to rape her suffered that fate. I feel it is safe to assume that there is a grain of truth in this & that at least 1 person was struck blind. Since this failed, she was condemned to death. She was led out to die & tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn. Then the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword. Depending on the version she freely offered her neck & he beheaded her, or, in some other versions, stabbed her in the throat. As the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths to save as relics.
She was buried. A few days later a girl named Emerentiana was found crying by her tomb. She was upset upon the death of her best friend & foster sister. The later because Emerentiana's mother was the wet nurse & nanny of Agnes. She refused to move & admitted she too was a Christian. She was stoned & has also been named a saint by the Catholic Church.
A church, Sant'Agnese fuori la mura, was built over her tomb. Pope Damasus decorated that tomb with a poem he wrote in her honor. There her relics as well as those of Emerentiana are still preserved. It is there that on this day the Pope goes to say Mass & bless 2 lambs. On Holy Thursday those lambs are shorn & the wool is used to make the palliums (pallia) that the Pope will confer on newly elevated archbishops who are metropolitans. This is done in June on the Feast of Ss Peter & Paul, 29 June. This custom rose because St. Agnes' name means lamb.
I conclude this with the 2nd reading from today's Office of Readings for the feast. It was written by St. Ambrose & I think it explains why we should continue to extol St. Agnes as a role model for young girls today.
Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.
There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents’ frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.
A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valour despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.
In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they argue, must come from its creator.
What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish.” She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.
You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl’s peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr’s crown.


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