Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feast of St. Agnes

Roller coasters have never been my thing in amusement parks. Come to think of it, most rides aren't, either. To me, the rides exist as something to make it exciting when you walk past one and see an unexpected place to buy food or souvenirs.

But this one time, I was at an amusement park on a trip with a bunch of kids, who bugged me to go on a roller coaster with them. At first, it was easy to say yes. The line was huge and there were lots of conversations going on to distract me from thinking about what I was about to do. But as we crept closer and closer to the front of the line, I was starting to get this bad feeling in my stomach. I was looking for some believable excuse to bail out of the line, when I saw them: kids, probably about 9 or 10 years old, excited as they were coming off of the ride, begging the adult with them to let them go on the ride one more time. Suddenly, the twisting of my stomach stopped. If young kids could handle it without fear, so could I.

That's the effect, I think, Saint Agnes had on the Christians of Rome. Everyone lived in fear of the Roman Empire, and especially the absolute authority the government had to order you killed. She taught them, by her example, to be brave and to face the fears head on. "If she can do it,", hopefully they believed, "why can't I?" If she can face death with a sense of hope, then we can do at least the same.

As we honor her feast day today, I think of the two churches in Rome named for her. The first one in the midst of the Piazza Navona, on the site of her martyrdom, is called Sant' Agnese in Agone. Very easy to spot, though not open all of the time. You almost have to pounce when you see the doors open. The second one, at the site of her burial, is called Sant' Agnese Fuori La Mura. I've only been out to this one once, and here's a picture of the tomb containing the relics of St. Agnes.

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