This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21 -- Feast of St. Agnes

Today, in Rome, two lambs will be presented at St. Agnes Church in Rome. There they will be blessed. When the time for shearing comes, their wool will be presented to the nuns of St. Agnes to be spun and woven into cloth. That cloth will then be used to make the pallia that the Pope will then give to metropolitan archbishops. A pallium is a thin, outer-garment that hangs over the shoulders; it makes a sort of Y-shape in front and behind. The presentation of the pallia goes back to the fifth century at latest, but was marred by simony in the Middle Ages; Popes were charging millions of florins from archbishops eager for the added prestige. The archbishops could afford the bribe by fleecing their flocks -- I am glad that practice ended and the only fleecing will be of the two lambs led into Rome today.

By the way, the story of Agnes has a familiar pattern. Young Christian who dedicated her virginity to Christ, she declines a marriage invitation from a powerful Roman (in this case, the son of the Praefectus Urbi). Angry, the prefect orders her to be work in a brothel, where she is stripped naked and presented to a customer. Upon gazing at her, the man is blinded. They decide that maybe death would be better, so they burn her at the stake, except of course she doesn't burn, so they behead her.

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