Catholic Prayer: Hymn to St. Agnes
St Ambrose was sure to write a Hymn on the Virgin-Martyr in whose praise he was so enthusiastic. We almost despair of giving an idea of the beauty of his verses to such as can read only our version of them.
It is the blessed Virgin Agnes' feast, for today she was sanctified by shedding her innocent blood, and gave to heaven her heaven-claimed spirit.
She that was too young to be a bride was old enough to be a martyr, and that too in an age when men were faltering in faith, and even hoary heads grew wearied and denied our God.
Her parents trembled for their Agnes, and doubly did they thus defend the treasure of her purity; but her faith disdained a silent hiding-place, and unlocked its shelter-giving gate.
One would think it was a bride hurrying with glad smiles to give some new present to her Spouse; and so it was: she was bearing to him the dowry of her martyrdom.
They would fain make her light a torch at the altar of some vile deity they came to: 'The Virgins of Jesus,' said Agnes, 'are not wont to hold a torch like this.
'Its fire would quench one's faith; its flame would put out my light. Strike, strike me, and the stream of my blood shall extinguish these fires.'
They strike her to the ground? and as she falls, she gathers her robes around her, dreading, in the jealous purity of her soul, the insulting gaze of some lewd eye.
Alive to purity even in the act of death, she buries her face in her hands; and kneeling on the ground, she falls as purity would wish to fall.
Glory be to thee, O Lord! and glory to thine Only Begotten Son, together with thy Holy Spirit, for everlasting ages.