Among all the early saints of the church few have been more honoured and loved than the fourth century martyr Agnes, a victim of male brutality.
Her feast day (January 21st) is kept by churches all around the world. Although little is reliably known about her life her story has become a symbol of feminine courage and witness in the face of brutality and domestic violence. The stories tell how, at the age of about twelve, she resisted, to death, male power and sexual violence. The legend of her life is a potent symbol of female christian resistance in the face of male sexual aggression. It is a story to inspire the church today to act and pray.
Every year in the world today, (the United Nations reports) millions of women and girls worldwide suffer violence, be it domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, dowry-related killing, trafficking, sexual violence in conflict-related situations, or other manifestations of abuse.
The United Nations estimates that, worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Rape is a horrible crime, and one which has lasting effects on its victims. Sexual violence, especially when women are the victims, is a hideous abuse of power – both physical and emotional.
The story of Agnes is a living story for God’s people. Agnes has been an inspiration for many women and she is, understandably, the patron of rape victims. As Christians we remember Agnes and stand in solidarity with her heroic witness, and so stand with women today who suffer violence and abuse.
All loving God, you choose what is weak in the world to shame what is strong. Grant that, as we celebrate the courageous life of Saint Agnes, we too may have courage to be steadfast in the face of abuse and violence. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.