“Today is the birthday of a virgin, let is imitate her purity.” (St Ambrose on St Agnes)
I read the Office of Readings on my bus trip last Saturday.
And I wondered what it is that I, a married woman, a wife, teacher and mother, can learn from St Agnes.
I think the Church venerates the saints for us, not that we become discouraged by the distance we see between their virtuous lives and our own life of mundane struggles.
But that we are uplifted by the lives of sanctity, of hope, of faith.
Even in times of turmoil, of fear, of temptation.
St Ambrose wrote of the trembling and hesitation and yes, even awe on the part of the executioner, he who was given the task of executing St Agnes, aged twelve or so.
This is the trembling and hesitation and awe we can feel when we read of the saints.. Trembling at the thought of living an extraordinary life, hesitation at the thought of living our ordinary lives extraordinarily, awe and wonder in our faith and worship.
What can we learn from St Agnes? This faith, this awe, this trembling.
And this is why the Church reminds us of the saints
To give us mentors and encouragement. To inspire awe and virtue.