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Saint of the Day – Jan 21, 2022

Saint Agnes

On Jan. 21, the Roman Catholic Church honors the virgin and martyr St. Agnes, who suffered death for her consecration to Christ.

Eastern Catholics of the Byzantine tradition celebrate her feast day Jan. 14.

Although the details of Agnes’ life are mostly unknown, the story of her martyrdom has been passed on with reverence since the fourth century. On the feast day of the young martyr – whose name means “lamb” in Latin – the Pope traditionally blesses lambs, whose wool will be used to make the white pallium worn by archbishops.

Born into a wealthy family during the last decade of the third century, Agnes lived in Rome during the last major persecution of the early Church under the Emperor Diocletian. Though he was lenient toward believers for much of his rule, Diocletian changed course in 302, resolving to wipe out the Church in the empire.

Agnes came of age as the Church was beginning to suffer under a set of new laws decreed by Diocletian, and his co-ruler Galerius, in 303. The emperor and his subordinate called for churches to be destroyed and their books burned. Subsequent orders led to the imprisonment and torture of clergy and laypersons, for the sake of compelling them to worship the emperor instead of Christ.

Meanwhile, Agnes had become a young woman of great beauty and charm, drawing the attention of suitors from the first ranks of the Roman aristocracy. But in keeping with the words of Christ and Saint Paul, she had already decided on a life of celibacy for the sake of God’s kingdom. To all interested men, she explained that she had already promised herself to a heavenly and unseen spouse.

These suitors both understood Agnes’ meaning, and resented her resolution. Some of the men, possibly looking to change her mind, reported her to the state as a believer in Christ. Agnes was brought before a judge who tried first to persuade her, and then to threaten her, into renouncing her choice not to marry for the Lord’s sake.

When the judge showed her the various punishments he could inflict – including fire, iron hooks, or the rack that destroyed the limbs by stretching – Agnes smiled and indicated she would suffer them willingly. But she was brought before a pagan altar instead, and asked to make an act of worship in accordance with the Roman state religion.

When Agnes refused, the judge ordered that she should be sent to a house of prostitution, where the virginity she had offered to God would be violated. Agnes predicted that God would not allow this to occur, and her statement proved true. The first man to approach her in the brothel was struck blind by a sudden flash of light, and others opted not to repeat his mistake.

But one of the men who had at first sought to make Agnes his own, now lobbied the judge for her execution. In this respect, the suitor obtained his desire, when the public official sentenced her to die by beheading. The executioner gave her one last chance to spare her life, by renouncing her consecration to Christ – but Agnes refused, made a short prayer, and courageously submitted to death.

St. Agnes, who died in 304, was venerated as a holy martyr from the fourth century onward. She is mentioned in the Latin Church’s most traditional Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon.

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Saint of the day – Jan 20, 2022

Saint Sebastian

Sebastian was the son of a wealthy Roman family. He was educated in Milan and became an officer of the imperial Roman army, and Captain of the Guard. He was a favorite of Emperor Diocletian. During Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians, Sebastian visited them in prison, bringing both supplies and comfort. He is reported to have healed the wife of a fellow soldier by making the sign of the cross over her. During his time in the army he converted many soldiers and a governor.

Charged as a Christian in 288 in Rome, Sebastian was tied to a tree, shot with arrows, and left for dead. However, he survived, recovered, and returned to preach to Diocletian, where the emperor then had him beaten to death.

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Vatican asks bishops to invite local Protestant and Orthodox leaders to participate in synodal path

The Vatican has issued a letter asking Catholic bishops to invite local Orthodox and Protestant leaders to participate in the diocesan stage of the two-year process leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, wrote a letter together asking Catholic dioceses to embrace the “ecumenical dimension” of the synodal process.

“The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey,” said the letter highlighted by the Vatican on Jan. 17.

Offering “some practical suggestions to ensure the ecumenical dimension of the synodal journey,” the cardinals encouraged bishops to reach out to leaders of other Christian communities in their area.

“After identifying the main Christian communities present in the area, the bishop should prepare and send a letter to their leaders or better visit them personally for this purpose,” their letter said.

National bishops’ conferences are likewise asked to invite representatives from other Christian communities and national councils of churches to participate in the synodal process.

The Synod on Synodality is a global, two-year consultative process of “listening and dialogue” that began in October 2021. The first stage is a diocesan phase expected to last until Aug. 15.

The Vatican has asked all dioceses to participate, hold consultations, and collect feedback on specific questions laid out in synod documents. At the end of the current process, an assembly of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled to take place in Rome in October 2023 to produce a final document to advise the pope.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer is “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

Cardinal Grech and Cardinal Koch said: “Like the Magi, Christians too journey together (synodos) guided by the same heavenly light and encountering the same worldly darkness.”

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