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St. Agnes of Assisi

St. Agnes of Assisi (Image courtesy of Wikimedia)

St. Agnes of Assisi

Order: Poor Clares (Second Order of St. Francis)

Feast: 19 Nov

Born: 1197 or 1198

Died: 16 Nov 1253

Canonized: 1753 by Pope Benedict XIV

Most people have heard of Francis of Assisi and many are aware of Clare of Assisi but Agnes of Assisi is a relative unknown. Agnes was Clare’s sister.

Agnes was give the name Catherine at birth. She most likely took the name Agnes when she entered the convent. Her father was Count Favorino Scifi and her mother Ortulana,  a member of the noble family of the Fiumi. (Her mother entered the convent later in life and has been beatified. Another sister, Beatrice, also joined the convent.)

On 18 Mar 1212 Clare left her family behind to form a convent, Agnes was 14 years old at the time and Clare prayed that her younger sister would join her. Sixteen days later, she did, both girls having left without their father knowing about it.

To say that their father was not a happy camper is an understatement. He asked his brother, Mondalo, to take some of his friends and retrieve her from the convent. Mondalo grabbed Agnes and started dragging her home by her hair but God had other plans and caused Agnes to be fixed to the spot. The group of men tried unsuccessfully to move her. Mondalo took his sword looking to slay her but God caused a pain in his arm causing him to drop the weapon. Frightened, the group of men fled.

Agnes was ecstatic and returned to her sister. Francis brought the two sisters to the convent of St. Damian where they were given habits and had their hair cut.

Agnes sought to imitate her saintly sister in her way of life, devoting her spare time to prayer and contemplation. She lived an austere life, eating only bread and water, and wearing a rough clothing.

In 1221 a new convent of Poor Clares was established in Florence and, despite her young age, Francis sent Agnes to lead it. She was later sent to establish other convents in Mantua and several other cities in northern Italy. Under her leadership many young women renounced the world and consecrated themselves to God in monastic seclusion.

Agnes was given many spiritual blessings throughout her life. While practicing her devotions it was not uncommon for her to rise off the ground. Once Jesus appeared to her in the form of an infant. She would become so rapt in contemplation during the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) that she said the three days seem to pass like one hour.

When Clare became aware that she was about to die, she sent for Agnes to assist her. Clare told Agnes, “My beloved sister, it is the will of God that I go, but be comforted, you will soon come and rejoin me with our Lord.” Clare’s prophecy was fulfilled three months later on 16 Nov 1253. Her body rests in a side chapel of the Church of St. Clare in Assisi. Numerous miracles have occurred at her tomb. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV.

Text © 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

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