Saints Index

Mar 2 - Saint* Agnes of Prague 1205-1282

 On the eve of the feast of the holy virgin and martyr Agnes, in the year 1205, a daughter was born to the king of Bohemia, Primislaus Ottokar I. She also received the name Agnes in baptism. Her mother, who was an aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, rejoiced when she noticed an admirable seriousness in her infant. At times she saw how the child folded its little hands in the form of a cross, and then, as if absorbed in deep devotion, would lie quite still.

According to the custom of the time, the king's daughter was betrothed at the age of three years to the son of the duke of Silesia, and hence was sent to the Silesain convent at Trebnitz, where St. Hedwig was superior at that time, to be educated there. Her betrothed died after three years, and she was then taken to the convent at Doxan in Bohemia, where the seeds of sanctity which had been sown by St. Hedwig budded forth in marvelous bloom. The child appeared to be destined for the heavenly Spouse rather than for an earthly one; but earthly monarchs renewed their suit for her hand.

Emperor Frederick II desired to secure her as the bride of his son and successor to the throne, Henry, and Agnes, who was now a mature young woman, was sent to the court of the German emperor. But when the union with Henry came to naught as the result of the prayers of the virgin, King Henry III of England sought her hand in marriage, and finally, even Emperor Frederick II himself, whose consort had meanwhile died. All the opposition raised by Agnes, who desired to belong entirely to the Divine Bridegroom, seemed in vain. Then she begged Pope Gregory IX to intervene, and as a result she obtained her freedom. The emperor declared himself satisfied since Agnes chose not a human being but the God of heaven in preference to him.

Now, however, Agnes strove to embrace the religious state in order to achieve her union with the Divine Bridegroom. The fame of Poor Clare convents had reached Bohemia, and Agnes resolved, with the assistance of her brother, who had meanwhile ascended the royal throne, to establish a convent of Poor Clares in the capital city of Prague. Pope Gregory cheerfully gave his consent, and, at his command, St. Clare sent five sisters from the convent of St. Damian in Assisi, to Prague. Agnes and seven other young women of the highest ranks of society entered the new convent together with these sisters.

Within a short time Agnes distinguished herself among them as a model of virtue; in fervor at prayer, in obedience, in religious discipline, in self-denial, and in humility. The command of the pope to accept the position of abbess was a great trial for her humility; however, she obtained permission not to carry the title, but rather to be known as the "senior sister." Holy zeal, similar to that of her holy mother St. Clare, characterized her vigilance regarding the observance of holy poverty; she declined the royal gifts sent to her by her brother, and would not tolerate that any sister possess anything of a personal nature. God blessed her with the gift of miracles; she recalled to life the deceased daughter of her brother.

Enriched with heavenly merits, she departed from this life in the odor of sanctity, to enter into eternal union with her Divine Bridegroom, on March 6, 1282, having served Him for forty years in the religious state. Devotion to her, which has existed since time immemorial, received apostolic sanction from Pope Pius IX, and her feast, which has long been celebrated in Prague on March 2nd, has been extended to the entire Franciscan Order.

1. Consider how Saint Agnes treasured the honor of being chosen by Christ as His spouse. She rejected the crowns of emperors, and kings, the emperor himself admitted that he could not take it ill of her to prefer the King of heaven to himself. Indeed, there can be no other honorable union, and every Christian family should consider itself highly honored if one of its members is called to this distinction. One may not, however, choose the vocation arbitrarily and from any human considerations, for here the word of the Apostle is applicable: "Neither does any man take the honor to himself, but he who is called by God as Aaron was" (Heb 5:4). -- Let no one insist on following the vocation without being called to it, and on the other hand, let no one who is called be prevented from following it.
2. Consider that every Christian should, in a certain sense, be a spouse of Christ. By the mouth of the prophet the Lord says to every soul devoted to Him: "And I will betroth you to Me in faith" (Os 2:20), and concerning heaven, to which every one of us is called. He speaks in terms of the parable of the ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom (Matt 25:1). No matter in what state you are living, or what your associations are with other people, your soul is a spouse of Christ ever since the day of your baptism, and it must persevere until death in fidelity to Him. All the love and attachment we feel for human beings must be idealized and ennobled by out love for Christ, and at no time may human affections make us swerve in out fidelity to Him. -- Have you persevered in your loyalty to Him?
3. Consider how easily the glamor, the honors, and the riches of the world delude us and shake our fidelity towards Christ. We are not all so strong as Blessed Agnes was. Hence, we should be on guard, and not direct our glance to this alluring glamor. Rather, we should pray with the Psalmist: "Turn away my eyes that they may not behold vanity" (Ps 118:37), and if the devil endeavors to lure us, and if he offers all the riches of this world as a reward for yielding to him, then we should say with Christ: "Begone, Satan, for it is written, the Lord you God shall you adore and Him only shall you serve" (Matt 4:10).

O God, who didst raise the virgin, Blessed Agnes, to the heights of heaven through her contempt of the pleasures of life at the royal court and her humble following of Thy cross, grant, we beseech Thee, that by her intercession and imitation, we may merit to be partakers of eternal glory. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., 1959 Franciscan Herald Press