On this fourth day of prayer for Christian Unity we in Canterbury are praying especially for the St Stephen’s Anglican parish led by Rev Kevin Maddy and the Anglican parish of St Cosmas and St Damian in the Blean where Rev Dr Stephen Laird is rector. We are also praying for French Protestant Church of Canterbury
Led by Anne Oakley.
Today is the feast of St Agnes. Like many of the early Christian martyrs much of her life is shrouded in legend, although we can be certain that she suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. I went to Rome with a parish pilgrimage in 2014 and when in the Piazza Novona visited the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone (Saint Agnes in Agone). According to tradition St Agnes was martyred at this location in 304 AD. We were able to see a relic of her skull in a chapel located to the left of the main sanctuary. She is patron saint of chastity, girls, engaged couples and victims of rape.
At this time it is important to reflect on the importance of chastity in all our lives whether we are single or married. “Chastity is not a teeth-gritting ability to avoid violating the sexual rules. Rather, chastity is a habit of reverence for oneself and others that enables us to use our sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness.” As a priest I am aware that many struggle to integrate their sexuality within their lives. As a celibate priest this hasn’t always been easy for me. Today it is so easy to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by material that can lead us to mere self absorption and self satisfaction. Today let us ask St Agnes to guide us in understanding the gift of our sexuality and ask that we be given the strength and wisdom to selfless in our love of others.