St Agnes, virgin and martyr; feast day: January 21
Let us keep with joy the feast of this most holy Virgin, and call to mind the holy passion of blessed Agnes; in her thirteenth year she overcame death and found life,*
Because she loved the only giver of life.
V. Reckoned but a child in years, she understood more than the ancients.
From the book of St Ambrose, Bishop, on Virgins
This is a virgin’s birthday; let us then follow the example of her chastity. It is a Martyr’s birthday; let us then offer sacrifices. It is the birthday of the holy Agnes; let men then be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. But how shall I set forth the glory of her whose very name is an utterance of praise?
St Agnes was holy beyond her years
It seems to me that this being, holy beyond her years, received the name of Agnes, not as an earthly designation, but as a revelation from God of what she was to be. The virgin’s name is an appellation of modesty.
Her name is an appellation of modesty
I will call her a Martyr; I have praised her enough. Copious is that praise, which is not sought after but is given by others. None is more praiseworthy than she, for whose praise all mouths are fitted. There are as many heralds proclaiming her praise, as there are men who speak of her as a Martyr. Tradition says that she suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen. Detestable, indeed, the cruelty that spared not so tender an age; but great was the power of faith that could find even children as witnesses.
– From The Roman Breviary, an approved English translation of the official text of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, 1964