The Catholic Defender: Saint Agnes of Assisi


Born Caterina Offreducia, Agnes was the younger sister of Saint Clare, and her first follower.


When Caterina left home two weeks after Clare’s departure, their family attempted to bring her back by force.


They tried to drag her out of the monastery, but her body suddenly became so heavy that several knights could not budge it.


Her uncle Monaldo tried to strike her but was temporarily paralyzed.


The knights then left Caterina and Clare in peace.


Saint Francis himself gave Clare’s sister the name Agnes, because she was gentle like a young lamb.


Agnes matched her sister in devotion to prayer and in willingness to endure the strict penances that characterized the Poor Ladies’ lives at San Damiano.


In 1221, a group of Benedictine nuns in Monticelli near Florence asked to become Poor Ladies. Saint Clare sent Agnes to become abbess of that monastery.


Agnes soon wrote a rather sad letter about how much she missed Clare and the other nuns at San Damiano. After establishing other monasteries of Poor Ladies in northern Italy, Agnes was recalled to San Damiano in 1253, as Clare lay dying.


Three months later Agnes followed Clare in death, and was canonized in 1753.


Agnes was said to be very virtuous, and as abbess she ruled with a benevolent kindness, knowing how to make the practice of virtue appealing to her sisters. In 1253, Agnes returned to Assisi to nurse her sister Clare during the latter's illness, and shortly thereafter died herself, on 16 November 1253.


Clare of Assisi is the patron saint of televisions and computer screens, believe it or not. An early follower of St. Francis, Clare founded The Order of Poor Ladies, which eventually became known as the Poor Clares.


St. Agnes, you refused to give up your faith; help us to be proud of our faith, to love it, to be strong in it, and to give witness to it daily. St. Agnes, patron saint of children, watch over the children of the world; keep them safe from harm; be with them in their hour of need; and always pray for them.


His anger was such that Agnes' father drew a weapon to use against his daughter, but he was seized with a violent pain in his arm and the weapon dropped from his hand. Overcome with fear, he and the rest of the band fled from the scene.


Agnes was overjoyed and returned to her sister Clare. St Francis then led the two maidens to the convent of St Damian, where he gave the holy habit also to Agnes.


St Francis soon recognized the rich treasure of virtue hidden in this privileged soul. When a new convent of Poor Clares was to be founded at Florence in 1221, St Francis sent Agnes, despite her youth, to act as superior there. Later he sent her also to Mantua and to several other cities in northern Italy to establish additional houses of the order.


Wherever she went, she edified everybody by her holy life. Many devout young women renounced the world in order to consecrate themselves to God in monastic seclusion under her direction. She had the gift of infusing the Franciscan spirit into them, both by word and example.

Saint Agnes of Assisi was favored with many extraordinary graces by God.


In the great fervor of her devotion she was often raised above the earth, and once our Lord appeared to her in the form of an infant.


From Holy Thursday until Holy Saturday she was once so rapt in the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ that she was under the impression she had spent an hour in this mystical state.


When Saint Clare of Assisi was about to die, she sent for Agnes to assist her in her final days. In her last moments Clare addressed her sister in these words, "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."


Three months later Agnes followed her sister to eternity. It was on November 16, 1253.


The body of Saint Agnes of Assisi rests in Assisi in a side chapel of the church of St Clare. Numerous miracles occurred at her tomb, and Pope Benedict XIV canonized her.


She now endeavored to imitate her saintly sister in everything, and devoted all her spare time to prayer and contemplation. She lived a very austere life, partaking only of bread and water, and wearing a coarse garb all her life.


Permit me, Divine Jesus, to come closer to You, that my whole soul may do homage to the greatness of Your Majesty; that my heart, with its tenderest affections, may acknowledge Thy infinite love.