Posted in FRANCISCAN OFM, PATRONAGE - ENGAGED COUPLES, PATRONAGE - OF CHASTITY, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 16 November – Saint Agnes of Assisi OSC (1197-1253)

Saint of the Day – 16 November – Saint Agnes of Assisi OSC (1197-1253) Virgin, Nun,Abbess, younger sister of Clare of Assisi and one of the first Abbesses of the Order of Poor Ladies (now the Poor Clares). Born Caterina Offreducia in 1197 at Assisi, Italy and died on 16 November 1253 at the Monastery of San Damiano of natural causes. Patronage – the Poor Clares, siblings, children of Mary, engaged couples, chastity.

Agnes was the younger daughter of Count Favorino Scifi. Her saintly mother, Blessed Hortulana, belonged to the noble family of the Fiumi and her cousin, Rufino, was one of the celebrated “Three Companions” of St Francis.

Agnes’s childhood was passed between her father’s Palace in the City and his Castle of Sasso Rosso on Mount Subasio.

On 18 March, 1212, her eldest sister Clare, moved by the preaching and example of St Francis, had left her father’s home to follow the way of life taught by the Saint. Sixteen days later, Agnes repaired to the Monastery of St Angelo in Panso, where the Benedictine Nuns had afforded Clare temporary shelter and resolved to share her sister’s life of poverty and penance. Agnes was just Fifteen years of age.

At this ocurrence, the fury of Count Favorino knew no bounds. He sent his brother Monaldo, with several relatives and some armed followers, to St Angelo’s Monastery, to force Agnes, if persuasion failed, to return home. The conflict which followed is related in detail in the “Chronicles of the Twent Four Generals.” Monaldo, (Agnes’ uncle) beside himself with rage, drew his sword to strike the young girl but his arm dropped, withered and useless, by his side; others dragged Agnes out of the Monastery by the hair, striking her and even kicking her repeatedly. Presently St.Clare came to the rescue and suddenly, Agnes’s body became so heavy that the soldiers having tried in vain to carry her off, dropped her, half dead, in a field near the Monastery.

Overcome by a spiritual power against which physical force availed not, Agnes’s relatives were obliged to withdraw and to allow her to remain with St Clare.

St Francis, who was overjoyed at Agnes’s heroic resistance to the entreaties and threats of her pursuers, presently cut off her hair and gave her the habit of Poverty. Soon after, he established the two sisters at St Damiano’s, in a small rude dwelling adjoining the humble Sanctuary, which he had helped to rebuild with his own hands. There several other noble ladies of Assisi joined Clare and Agnes, and thus began the Order of the Poor Ladies of St Damian’s, or Poor Clares, as these Franciscan nuns afterwards came to be called.

From the outset of her religious life, Agnes was distinguished by such an eminent degree of virtue, that her companions declared that she seemed to have discovered a new road to perfection, known only to herself.

As Abbess, she ruled with loving kindness and knew how to make the practice of virtue bright and attractive to her subjects. In 1219, Agnes, despite her youth, was chosen by St Francis to found and govern a community of the Poor Ladies at Monticelli, near Florence, which in course of time, became almost as famous as St Damiano’s. A letter written by St Agnes to St Clare, after this separation, is still extant, touchingly beautiful in its simplicity and affection. Nothing perhaps in Agnes’s character, is more striking and attractive, than her loving fidelity to Clare’s ideals and her undying loyalty in upholding the latter, in her lifelong and arduous struggle for Seraphic Poverty.

Full of zeal for the spread of the Order, Agnes established, from Monticelli, several Monasteries of the Poor Ladies in the north of Italy, including those of Mantua, Venice and Padua, all of which observed the same fidelity to the teaching of St Francis and St Clare.

In 1253 Agnes was summoned to St Damiano’s during the last illness of her beloved sister and assisted at the latter’s triumphant death and funeral.

On 16 November of the same year,she followed St Clare to her eternal reward. Her mother Hortulana and her younger sister Beatrice, both of whom had followed Clare and Agnes into the Order, had already passed away.

The precious remains of St Agnes repose near the body of her mother and sisters, in the Church of St Clare at Assisi. God, Who had favoured Agnes with many heavenly manifestations during life, glorified her Tomb after death, by numerous miracles. In 1753 Pope Benedict XIV recognised her holiness and recognised her cultus by and permitted the Order of St Francis to celebrate her Feast. It is kept on 16 November, as a double of the second class.

Posted in MARTYRS, PATRONAGE - MUSICIANS, PATRONAGE - OF CHASTITY, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 22 November – St Cecilia (died 3rd Century) Virgin & Martyr

Saint of the Day – 22 November – St Cecilia (died 3rd Century) Virgin & Martyr – Patronages:  Hymns, musicians, poets, City of Albi in France, Mar del Plata, Argentina, Academy of Music in Rome, chastity and purity, composers, musical instrument manufacturers, 3 Diocese, City of Acquasparta, Italy.   St Cecilia, is the Patroness of Musicians because it is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she “sang in her heart to the Lord”.St Cecilia

With many of the early church martyrs, there are often stories and legends but not much historical information.   Saint Cecilia probably lived in the third century and tradition says she died about 177 – 230 AD.   Although details of her life may be unknown to us, Saint Cecilia was one of the most revered early virgin martyrs of Rome, as evidenced by her name appearing in the Roman Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer 1).   She is one of the seven women commemorated by name in the Roman Canon.   There is evidence of a church named in her honour dating to the late fourth century.   A feast day in honour of Saint Cecilia was celebrated as early as 545.

Cecilia was born in a wealthy Roman family and was a Christian by birth.   Her family gave her in marriage to Valerius, a pagan nobleman.   Cecilia promised to remain a virgin and she was successful in persuading Valerius to respect her virginity on their wedding night.   Later, Valerius was converted to Catholicism along with his brother, Tiburtius.saint-cecilia-john-melhuish-strukdwic

These two brothers dedicated themselves to burying the Christian martyrs, which was illegal.   They were arrested and sentenced to death for refusing to renounce their religion.

Cecilia continued the work of converting people to the Christian faith and of burying the Christian dead, even though it was against the law.   Hundreds were baptised through her witness and strength of faith.   She planned to have her home preserved as a church after her death.   Her refusal to worship false gods and her burying of the dead lead to her arrest.Guercino, 1591-1666; Saint Cecilia

Saint Cecilia was brought to trial and sentenced to death.   It took several days for her to die and it is said that she converted many people who came to care for her as she was dying.   Saint Cecilia died lying on her right side with her hands crossed in prayer.   The position of her fingers—three extended on her right hand and one on the left—were her final silent profession of faith in the Holy Trinity, Three Persons in one God.   Saint Cecilia was buried in the Catacomb of Saint Callistus.Ventura Salimbeni, Virgin and child with the martyred Saint Cecilia

In the Middle Ages, Saint Cecilia became a very popular saint.   There is a story that Saint Cecilia was said to have heard heavenly music inside her heart when she was forced to marry the pagan Valerian.   During her wedding, Cecilia sat and sang to God in her heart. Thus, she was declared to be the patron of musicians.   Musical compositions, poems, art, and festivals have grown out of this story.

A few examples of the many artistic works about Saint Cecilia:
The first record of a music festival in her honor was held at Évreux in Normandy in 1570.
Chaucer commemorates Saint Cecilia in his “Second Nun’s Tale.”
John Dryden’s poem “A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day” was set to music by Handel in his “Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day.”
Charles Gounod composed the Saint Cecilia Mass.
Benjamin Britten composed the “Hymn to Saint Cecilia.”
Saint Cecilia reminds us of the ways that our music and art can lead us to praise God.

The Sisters of Saint Cecilia, religious sisters, shear the lambs’ wool used to make the palliums of new metropolitan archbishops.   The lambs are raised by the Cistercian Trappist Fathers of the Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) Abbey in Rome.   The lambs are blessed by the Pope every year on 21 January, the Feast of the martyr Saint Agnes.   The pallia are given by the Pope to the new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June.St_Cecilia_WGA

St Cecilia’s body was exhumed in the 1599 and is the first instance in the Church of a saint being incorrupt.   Her remains are located at the Church of St Cecilia in the Trastevere region of Rome, where a beautiful Statue depicting the position in which her body lay as she died by Stefano Maderno (1600), one of the most famous examples of Baroque sculpture.  The pavement in front of the statue encloses a marble slab with Maderno’s sworn statement that he has recorded the body as he saw it when the tomb was opened in 1599.   The statue depicts the three axe strokes described in the 5th-century account of her martyrdom.   It also is meant to underscore the incorruptibility of her body, which miraculously still had congealed blood after centuries,

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Church of St Cecilia in the Trastevere region of Rome

400px-Ciborium_of_Santa_Cecilia_in_Trastevere
The Ciborium containing the Body of St Cecilia attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio.

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Stefano Maderno (1600)

saint-cecilia-Cathedral of St Cecilia in Albi
This similar Sculpture is in the Cathedral of St Cecilia in Albi, France of which city she is the Patron