Saint Jerome spoke these words in a sermon for today’s feast: “This is a virgin’s birthday; let us follow the example of her chastity. It is a martyr’s birthday; let us offer sacrifices; it is the birthday of holy Agnes: let men be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. It seems to me that this child, holy beyond her years and courageous beyond human nature, receives the name of Agnes [Greek: pure] not as an earthly designation but as a revelation from God of what she was to be.”
Two very young lambs were blessed by Pope Francis in the Urban VIII Chapel. When the wool is ready, they will be shorn and the wool used to make the pallia for the recently appointed metropolitan archbishops. At this writing, there are no new archbishops in the USA who will receive one of the pallia unless a new archbishop in Anchorage is appointed soon.
You would recognize the pallium as the outer stole worn by the Pope and the archbishops while they offer Holy Mass. Each pallium is white decorated with six black crosses and 3 pins symbolizing their pastoral communion and authority share with the Pope. The white connects the purity of heart each bishop ought to have with the chaste love he has for the Church. The white pallium recognizes her faithfulness. The quote taken from Saint Jerome above gives the real sense of what is going on today with the lambs viz. Agnes viz. the archbishops.
The name Agnes means “lamb” in Latin and “pure” in Greek. The young virgin-martyrd Agnes lived in the early 4th century and was known for her consecrated virginity. Her life was taken from her because she believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and not pagan gods. Saint Agnes is buried in the Basilica of Saint Agnes on the via Nomentana.
The Trappist monks raise the lambs to a certain age before they given to the Benedictine nuns at St Cecilia Abbey in Trastevere weave the pallia and given to the Apostolic Household to be placed in an urn at the tomb of Saint Peter until the Pope blesses them on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.