APRIL 20 — St. Agnes of Montepulciano
Nun of the Order of Preachers
St Agnes was born in Italy in 1274, a gentle future glory of the Order of St Dominic. Her father was an eminent Christian who dwelt in the village of Gracciano Vecchio, near the Lake of Perugia in central Italy. On the very day of her birth a first miracle announced to those present that this was a predestined child: mysterious burning torches appeared, shining brilliantly near her crib. Already at the age of four the little girl used to retire in solitude to pray to Jesus, her love.When she was nine she asked her parents to enter a monastery; they opposed this wish, not certain of the will of God. But after she had prayed fervently that opinions might be changed, she was allowed to join the Sisters of Monte Pulciano who were living under the Rule of St Augustine. They soon venerated her as resembling an angel of paradise.
When she reached the age of fourteen, to test her they assigned to her the prosaic duties of stewardess of her monastery, an office in which she would have to provide for the material needs of the sisters and keep accounts; they wanted to see whether these occupations would detach her from her spirit of uninterrupted prayer. They were edified to see her carry out her duties cheerfully, in perfect obedience, without murmuring in any way and without her piety being in any way altered. Whenever a sister needed any service, the response of St Agnes was always characterized by grace and charity.
St Agnes already had the reputation of sanctity; a number of persons had seen her raised in the air nearly two feet above ground. And when the residents of Procena, a neighboring town, decided to build a monastery for their daughters, they came to ask for her as its first Superior. She was at that time fifteen years old, and her humility was affrighted by this request. But she was commanded by the Sovereign Pontiff to accept the office as proposed. This experience would prepare her for a later important work, that of founding a large monastery in honor of the Mother of God at Monte Pulciano; the Blessed Virgin had already appeared to her and told her that it would be founded on faith in the Most High and Undivided Trinity.
As the years passed, it occurred sometimes that where she knelt in prayer, flowers sprang up - violets, lilies and roses. One year, during the night of the Assumption, the Mother of the Saviour appeared to her again and placed the Infant Jesus in her arms. St Agnes succeeded in founding the foretold monastery, in which she presided over twenty cloistered Dominican sisters; an angel had told her to establish it under the Rule of St Dominic.During her last illness, she was sent to bathe in curative waters; during her journey there she brought back to life a child who had drowned. Her health did not improve, but a spring welled up nearby which cured others and was named the water of St Agnes. St Agnes returned to her monastery and prepared for death. She died at the age of 43 on April 20, 1317. Miracles occurred at her tomb, as they had during her lifetime, and she was beatified in 1534, canonized in 1726. Her first biographer was Blessed Raymond of Capua, the confessor of St Catherine of Siena.
Special thanks to our Dominican Brethren of the Australian Province of the Asumption for providing this text.