Today, March 2nd, the universal Church celebrates St. Agnes of Bohemia.
She was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. At the innocent age of three, she was already engaged to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. She knew that she did not want to get married, and that she desired to enter the religious life.
Agnes declined marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and King Henry III of England. Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, proposed to her, wherein Agnes went to the Pope for help. Ultimately, Frederick did not force the matter, acknowledging that Agnes had every right to choose the “King of Heaven” before himself.
Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a house for the friars, constructing a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. Agnes and seven other noblewomen, in 1236, entered this monastery. Even St. Clare, St. Francis’ colleague and great friend, sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, writing Agnes four letters telling her of the beauty and grace of her vocation and her duties as abbess of the monastery.
Agnes was known for her dedication and discipline, through prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure insisted that she should receive the title, abbess, but she indicated she rather preferred another title, “senior sister”. Indeed and in fact, she performed all of the chores necessary to serve her fellow sisters, which included cooking and mending clothes of lepers. Her fellow sisters loved her, acknowledging that she was loving but strict in observing poverty. Her brother offered Sister Agnes an endowment for the monastery, but she rejected that gift.
Sister Agnes died on March 6, 1282, having been canonized in 1989.
We must reflect upon the fact that St. Agnes lived a very tough and austere life, 45 years in the Poor Clare monastery that she established. One can only imagine that St. Agnes might become bitter under the circumstances. But she was not bitter; she pursued holiness at every avenue, and made it possible through poverty and austerity to prioritize God first in her life, and in the lives of her fellow sisters. She never used her prior noble status to make her any different than her fellow sisters, working and serving as they did and being an excellent example of finding Jesus in disguise.
St. Agnes said:
“Have nothing to do with anyone who would stand in your way and would seek to turn you aside from fulfilling the vows which you have made to the Most High (Psalm 49:140) and from living in that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.” (Clare to Agnes of Bohemia, Letter II in Murray Bodo, O.F.M., Clare: A Light in the Garden, p. 118).
With respect and love,
Source: Franciscan Media