Monday (21st January) was the feast of St. Agnes. Since she is my favourite saint, I decided to go to the cathedral to pray after class. I wasn’t really intending to stay for Mass, but I was caught up in my prayers and before I knew it Mass had started. On occasion rather than the normal daily Mass there will be a requiem Mass, and normally I would have checked the noticeboard to see if anything was going on but because I hadn’t intended to stay I hadn’t done so. For the most part those attending were the regular daily Mass goes, and maybe half a dozen family members of the deceased. It took me by surprise and at first completely freaked me out. While I have never been afraid of death, I have always been uncomfortable about it. Grief is not an emotion I cope well with and my instinct was to leave. But I couldn’t do that, it would have been obvious. So I stayed put.
It really made me think about the end of this life, and the next. I have been struggling recently, and it has really helped me put things back in perspective. This life is not for our enjoyment, our pleasure, our flights of fancy. It does not end at death. It is a preparation for the next life, the glorious kingdom of heaven. We are not looking to death, we are looking beyond death to the new life that Christ gained for us. I had lost sight of that, and I was reminded of it at that requiem Mass. Where do I want to go when I die? Do I want to be in the kingdom of God? Of course! I cannot say that my struggles have been wiped away, but it has helped me remember why I even try to follow the will of God. It is His will that will lead me to His kingdom, not mine. I think my dear St. Agnes was watching out for me that day and interceding for me.
On a slightly related note, today is the feast of St. Agnes’ foster sister (she was the daughter of Agnes’ wet nurse), St. Emerentiana. She was a catechumen and went to pray at her sister’s grave a few days after her death. When a group of pagans approached she told them she was Agnes’ sister and professed that she too was a Christian and the crowd stoned her to death. Somehow she has always impressed me. How easy it would have been to turn away from her faith after her sister’s martyrdom! How easy it would have been to deny her sister and her faith! But she saw the faith of Agnes, the faith that she refused to deny and died for, and followed in her footsteps. Agnes may well have been an inspiration for her initial conversion, we obviously do not know that. But we do know that the two sisters are in God’s kingdom, where they both share in His glorious vision.