In the Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church, there are many saints who are recognized for their devotion to God, and the way they lived their Faith. Most of these saints were just like me and you…in a lot of ways. Many of them entered into this world with nary a side wards glance from others; these were the ones whose childhood’s were very normal; they were barely distinguishable from others while they were young.
We have also read about other saints, who were not so fortunate. These were the ones whose very families considered them a burden from the moment of their birth. Yet, somehow, even with all the struggles and hardships, they were able to hear God, and follow His calling. Other times, there are special souls, who immediately hear God and follow him… even before their birth…(St. John the Baptist comes to mind)… In reality, we are all close to the Lord before we are born…Can we even begin fathom that?…In the book of Jeremiah it says “Before I knit you in your mother’s womb…I knew you...” That’s pretty intense…Anyway, of all the saints we recognize there are some who united themselves more perfectly to the Lord while still in the womb… Saint Agnes of Montepulciano was one such soul. She loved the Lord from the moment of her creation…
Agnes was born to a wealthy, noble family in Italy. At the moment of her birth lit torches appeared out of no where,flying about, they surrounded the family’s house. Lighting it up, with a light so bright, it seemed that the heavens had opened upon it. All who were in the house were covered with this celestial miracle. As the young Agnes grew, it became quite obvious to her family that indeed she was a very pious child, who relished her prayer life and simplicity. At the age of four, she would often retire to her room and spend long hours praying many Our Fathers and Hail Marys.
When she was but six years old, she began to seek her parents permission to join a convent. Not wanting to disappoint their daughter, her parents often allowed her to visit with sisters at a nearby convent. One time, on her way home from visiting the convent with her mother and several other women from the household, they were passing an area where a brothel was located. As they passed by, a large flock of crows attacked the young Agnes. After the other women were able to chase off the unruly birds, young Agnes told them that the crows were of the devil, and that they had attacked her because she was going to build a convent there when she grew up.
By the time she was nine years old, her persistence paid off, and her parents finally allowed her to join the convent. The group of sisters were called “Sacchines”. They were a very pious order, whose habits were made out of coarse sack cloth, which is where their name came from. Their austere lifestyle suited little Agnes, and filled her with much happiness. She blossomed...and by the time she was only fourteen years old, they named her ‘bursar’ of the order, which meant she was in control of the financial and practical needs of the convent. As with all of her daily tasks, Agnes performed her new role with grace and obedience. She never complained, and always managed to find the food and supplies necessary for her sisters. There were even several occasions when miracles happened, such as the multiplying of food in the pantry during particularly lean times.
It was during these years that the Blessed Mother began appearing to Sister Agnes, and she became known as a visionary. During the Blessed Mother’s first visit to Agnes, she presented the girl with three stones, which represented the Most High and Undivided Trinity. She told Agnes to use these three stones when building the convent. When the young saint replied that she had no plans for building a convent, she was told by the Blessed Mother to keep the stones, for a future time when she did have plans.
During another vision, the Blessed Mother appeared holding the Infant Jesus, whom She let Agnes hold. The young sister fell into a trance. When she awoke, she was still holding the gold cross that the Infant had been wearing, which she kept and treasured forever.
When Agnes turned fifteen, she was granted special permission by Pope Nicholas IV, to become abbess of a nearby monastery in Procena. Agnes felt unqualified to hold this position, and tried to refuse, but the Pope urged her on, and she obediently complied. When she was consecrated as abbess, small white crosses miraculously fell from the sky and were witnessed by all present. Under her gentle and humble guidance, her community flourished.
Throughout the years, everyone who met her, loved her. There were many miracles surrounding her. It is said that when she prayed, she could be seen levitating two feet in the air. Also, she had many visions in which angels brought her the Holy Eucharist. She lived an austere life and ate nothing but bread and water for fifteen years. She often slept with a stone as a pillow.
After serving in the monastery for twenty years, the residents of her hometown called her back. They requested that she build a convent in the location where the brothel had been many years before. Agnes, remembered the three stones, and used them, consecrating the convent to the Blessed Trinity. And even though she had no money, the Lord provided everything she needed. She was able to establish a new order under the Dominican Laws of prayer and penance.
Shortly after, Agnes fell extremely ill. She offered up her sufferings with grace and humility, remaining cheerful to those around her. The sisters of her convent took her to the healing waters of Chianciano. While there, a young child fell into the water and drowned. Saint Agnes prayed over the child and miraculously the child returned to life. A new well sprung up from where Agnes had been sitting, and since her death many people have found healing in its waters.
After she returned home to Montepulciano, she died peacefully on April 20th, 1317, with her sisters nearby. The tomb of her body has been the sight of many miracles. It become a sight of pilgrimage for many. It is said that one time, St. Catherine of Sienna visited the tomb, as she bent to kiss the feet of St. Agnes, the feet rose to meet St. Catherine’s lips!
In 1435 the body of the Saint was moved to Orvieto. As it was exhumed it was found to be incorrupt…there was said to be a sweet odor of perfume trickling from her feet and hands…even some fifty years later! She was canonized by Pope XIII in 1726.
Saint Agnes of Montepulciano lived her life united to the Will of God from the moment of her conception. Can you imagine? We all aware of the fact that God knows us…from the very moment we are conceived…We meet Him from our very first moment….from the very beginning of our existence…God knows us and we know Him……Saint Agnes was unique in the fact that she was able to unite herself to God so quickly…She used her freewill to follow God…I find that so amazing! Kind of makes me sad in a way too…when I think of all the times in my life when I have actively worked to separate myself from God…from His Will…I have spent so much time running from what He wants…thinking that somehow…I know better…
But, God is good...He is Awesome and even though we may flee from His calling…fight with Him like a spoiled child fights with a loving parent…He calls us back…again and again….always waiting for us to return to Him…always waiting for us to return once again to His loving embrace…
Dear Lord, With the intercession of your Blessed Child Saint Agnes, please help me to recognize Your Will in all things. Help me to live a more austere life, so that like Saint Agnes, I may separate myself from the distractions of the world and grow to unite myself more closely with You. Amen.